“A house means so much more than the building itself. It is about neighborhood. It is about the sounds of the street. It is about the glances of the passers-by and about the ones who cross your threshold. A house has many stories to tell. The question is, which one would I like most? Today, the echo of the cave, so alive in my memory, lulls me to sleep. I miss those days when every evening was a story of my emotions, written in passionate dance moves and music notes. But soon, this will all come back…”
Since the 16th century, when Granada was reconquered by the Catholic monarchs, the gitanos community has settled outside the Moorish wall in Sacromonte. Over time, in spite of its poorness, the neighbourhood has been one of the richest in traditions. Nowadays its cultural heritage attracts tourists and locals alike with its distinct lifestyle, simple, healthy and close to nature. Taking advantage of the local sedimentary rocks, people in Sacromonte gave rise to a perfectly sustainable form of construction: the cave house. Following the organic shape of the hills, these traditional houses integrate into the natural landscape with a refined simplicity. These particularities, combined with the Moorish influences that are felt throughout the Southern Spain, constitute the background of our project aim – translating the charm of the cave houses in a modern approach, with respect and appreciation for the local traditions and environment.
A house is about the way in which one relates to the world. Our client, born in a traditional family in Sacromonte, knows this well. Life has sent him abroad, studies and work made him travel and see the world from different perspectives. But now, in his late 50s, an old saying revealed its true meaning: “there is no place like home”. All his life, as a successful writer, he owned his inspiration to the vivid lifestyle that he experienced in the childhood years. The spirit of the place, the joy of being alive and the closeness to the earth, all come together, forming a unique experience, only to be met in Granada. He wished that to be reflected in the project for his new home. On a steep slope facing the Alhambra palace, some blank pages on the desk are waiting to meet new stories – and so do the white-washed façade, rising from the rocks, just like their neighbors in the valley.
Following our client’s wish to establish a new connection with the community, the ground floor is specially designed to provide accomodation for guests as well as a space for Zambras – traditional flamenco fiestas with dancing and singing. The first floor represents the day area, widely opened to the view of Alhambra and Generalife. The top floor features the night area, with traditional cave bedrooms.
DETAILS – FROM “HOUSE” TO “HOME”
The complex cultural background of the location is expressed in small details throughout the house: vaulted ceilings in the cave rooms, niches used for storage, large spaces for gardening. Light was also an important design element, especially in relation to the natural rock used in building.
SUSTAINABILITY AND LANDSCAPE INTEGRATION
Crossing the traditional limit between nature and construction is typical of the local architecture in Sacromonte, also reflecting in our project. The house combines the organic shapes of traditional cave dwellings with the rectangular volumes of Moorish buildings, all integrated according to the natural landscape. The three floos are carved into the rock following the terrain inclination and the terraces are in direct relation to the natural slope. The energy supply was also made sustainable, using solar panels.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
As the past constitues a valuable inspiration, so was the house meant to create a precedent for extending the cave housing tradition in our times and developing Sacromonte with respect for its culture.
ABOUT THE COMPETITION
Team: Cirstea Elena Monica, Maldaianu Isabella
Competition: “A HOUSE FOR…”, September 2017 (http://www.opengap.net/)
Competition subject (extras): “The competition seeks for innovative ideas in the design of a house, focusing on the relationship of the project with a specific client, as well as with the site where it is located. Each participant or team will propose the client for designing a house. This will be a person of interest and inspiration for the project. Each contestant or team will be able to choose the location of their project. Since one of the aims of this competition is to search for heterogeneous proposals and various possible locations, we hope that this global diversity will enrich the final results.”