Careful planning and restoration turns ‘old’ into ‘gold’ as in the case of this vintage countryside house in Formentera, Spain.
Time was when a house, even an ordinary village house like Can Manuel D’en Corda in Formentera, Spain was built to last forever. A thing of beauty, this unassuming house stands as rock-solid today as it did years ago prompting its owners to retain the original structure when considering plans for its expansion.
In 2008, architectural firm Marià Castelló + Daniel Redolat penciled in another 43,003 sq m to the existing 16,527 sq m to add in more bedrooms and courtyards.
The original structure was left intact right down to its gabled roof and dry stone walls as the owners were now keen to preserve it for its “ethnographic and cultural value”. Besides retaining the old structure also upped the green quotient of the project.
Up until recently, Formentera was a relatively unknown island in Spain, lounging in the shadow of its boisterous neighbour Ibiza, only a ferry ride away.
Today as the allure of Ibiza diminishes, and the virgin beaches of Formentera top destination charts, tourist development is beginning to leave its imprint on this small island.
Fortunately UNESCO made it to the island much before the sybarites did, declared it a World Heritage site and left only after instituting several construction laws that protect the coastline, architectural heritage and local culture from modern development.
It is a result of these efforts that houses like Can Manuel D’en Corda on the island are faithfully preserving their mid-19th century architectural heritage while still keeping up with the times which demand a respect of the environment. Typical of architecture in the region, this house “highlights the link between this type of building and the farms which they were located close to,” explains Castelló.
The Pine and Juniper forest on the western side which are integral to the identity of the area were left untouched. Native vegetation is known to benefit the ecology far more than any landscape design chosen for its mere looks.
As per the expansion plans, the living quarters were based in the original house and the newly-constructed area houses the bedrooms, utility spaces, courtyards and terraces from where the owners can enjoy panoramic views of the Mediterranean, especially Ibiza.
Natural and unpretentious materials mark the rustic appeal of Can Manuel D’en Corda. In the original structure the beautiful stone walls and wooden beams are offset by polished concrete floors.
The kitchen, bathrooms and even the swimming pool are clad in cement to create a “pavement-like finish”.
The outdoors make an unabashed appearance indoors with coarse textures like unfinished concrete on new ceilings, limestone flooring in the basement and gravel flooring on the roof and courtyards.
These are suitably partnered by chalky white walls and sparse interiors typical of traditional agrarian households.
Much of the furniture was created on site with the help of local artisans. Classics like the Torres Clavé armchairs, Miquel Mila’s Cesta Luminaire and traditional esparto skating chairs introduce whimsy and flair into the breezy interiors.
The original house was connected to the power grid during renovation and new wiring was concealed behind vertical wooden panels at appropriate locations. Solar energy – one of the many benefits of living in sun-blessed Formentera – is effectively used to power solar water heaters.
The architects also installed energy-efficient lights and upped the ‘green’ quotient of the house with rainwater harvesting.
Can Manuel D’en Corda’s sweeping beauty lies in its architecture that throws the house open to the friendly Mediterranean climate letting the sun and breeze in with the help of high ceilings, large doors, wide windows and skylights. This helps curtail the use of energy and again enhances the sustainability aspect.
Since the residence functions as a second home, the architects designed different exterior areas which allowed the owners to enjoy the balmy climate of the Mediterranean. This in turn encouraged the owners to spend a majority of their hours outdoors, thereby leading to reduced power bills.
Around the house, the architects resisted the urge to carve out a formal garden with the explanation that, “the intention was to try and leave the areas not directly occupied by the house unaltered and mixed with the natural surroundings.”With its captivating blend of rustic and modern, Can Manuel D’en Corda is a winning representation of a sustainable house in complete harmony with nature.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Estudi Es Pujol de s’Era