Ábalos & Herreros 20.04.08

words Beatrice Galilee

Ábalos & Herreros has designed a three-storey house with a deliberately ambiguous facade, on a small plot of land just north of Madrid.

The Spanish practice produced a simple masonry structure clad in vertical panels of plywood coated in cement, with thin strips of stainless steel cutting through the facade. “It creates an impression of being something very heavy, a stone house,” says partner Iñaki Ábalos. “But the position on the top of a hill and its vertical lines also make it look like a light wooden hut from a distance.”

The metal seams in the joints reflect the light and give the building a subtle touch. “It was always going to be cubic,” says Ábalos, “but it plays with the idea of brightness. There’s a sense of delicacy in what could be a heavy object. As soon as we realised we could use the metal in the joints, the whole house became different.”

The project was conceived in 1992 when Ábalos & Herreros received an award on Spanish TV programme Metropolis. The producer promised the pair that he would commission them for his first house – ten years later the architects received the phone call and the building was completed earlier this year.

Although the small plot determined a compact, straightforward design, Ábalos & Herreros created interest internally through a number of features. “It had to be simple, but we created the variety in the corridors and the spaces inside,” says Ábalos. The building has high ceilings and concrete floors throughout. The roof terrace is an enclosed solarium and the ground floor has an outdoor swimming pool.

The client was adamant that the design be sustainable, with no air-conditioning, so the building is naturally ventilated with generous louvred windows.

images Jose Hevia

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