Sheltered by the Pyrenees mountains, this ingenious three-storey house designed by architects Eduardo Cadaval & Clara Solà-Morales gracefully straddles the old structure and the new contemporary living space.
The snow-capped Pyrenean Mountains loom high above the Iberian Peninsula. A natural border between France and Spain, these mountains find a place in mythology and can be dated back to 150 million years. And somewhere in these ancient crags, stands the House in the Pyrenees. Award winning architects Cadaval & Solà-Morales took on this project to build a home that was high up in a mountain range.
The architects founded their studio in 2005 in Barcelona and Mexico City simultaneously. Cadval and Solà-Morales are unusual in the way they approach design. Their studio “operates like a laboratory in which research and development is seen as an important element of the design process.”
This two-storey contemporary house is located in Canejan, a small village in the Val d’Aran valley in Catalonia, Spain. It is home to a father and son duo who wanted “separate homes but shared experiences.”
The architects had many challenges in completing this project. They wanted to build a new home while keeping the integrity of the old space intact.
Traditional houses in the area, however, had their own inherent drawbacks. According to the architects, “The distinctive attributes inherent to this (vernacular) construction technique (compactness, massiveness, minimum openings, obscure interiors, weight) denied the house the view of the extraordinary environment of its location: on top of a mountain, with views to two different valleys that are faced by the two lone façades of the house.”
Cadaval & Solà-Morales kept the old dry stone base of the property intact and pitched a steep roof on top of the existing structure. What this created was a large open space flooded with light and expansive views of the mountains on all sides. Three floors of living space were divided into two independent yet connected homes. The first and second floors are open plan with a living room, bathroom and a kitchen on each floor. The ground floor has another fully-equipped bathroom.
The house rises from the old mountain and is in fact, attached to it. The sharp modern lines of the new ‘V’ roof with its wide glass walls are in character alien, yet fit in perfectly with the landscape.
The top floor lies under the sharp angles of the roof. The roof – a vast continuous element made out of two planes – does not rest directly on top of the stone wall, but is supported on the last slab. Windows along one side overlook the valley while a tall window that is almost a whole wall of glass overlooks the mountain. A row of windows along the top of the roof afford stunning views of the summit of the mountain, in addition to letting in brilliant daylight throughout the interiors.
Tidy wooden flooring runs all over the house, adding a touch of honeyed warmth to the space. Bespoke cabinetry curves under the sharp triangles of the roof and create ample storage for the family. Touches of bright yellow dot the interiors providing a sharp contrast to the landscape and the otherwise muted interiors of the house. The windows are unadorned – a view like that should not be compromised.
On the lower floor, a wide door that is flush with the old wall (and therefore off-centre) brings in more light and provides yet another point of view of the surroundings. The bedrooms and bathrooms are situated on the lower floor and are anchored to the old house.
The architects aimed to preserve the authenticity of the old structure and build around it by reinforcing the principles of vernacular architecture. The aim was also to make the project design a sustainable one by using new technology and material in conjunction with local building traditions that work effortlessly in this extreme mountainous climate.
Good design is all about finding a new way of living while maintaining a sense of history and tradition where appropriate. Architects Cadaval & Solà-Morales, with this elegant design, have once again shown that the simplest homes are sometimes the most beautiful.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Santiago Garcés