The OE House is a montage. The clients wanted a double house, so they could move from one half to the other, according to their state of mind. They did not like to spend their holidays traveling; they preferred to move downstairs, and do it for real, closing the quarters above. The project provided them with two well-known domestic environments—the open frame of the case study houses for the hedonistic pleasure of the warm season, topped with the interiorized existentialism of Le Corbusier’s Maison Jaoul for the windy months in la Sierra de la Mussara. The resulting exquisite corpse—wrapped by the most Spanish architectural prop of all: the persiana—ensures the schizophrenic differentiation of modes of habitation as much as it negotiates the impossible encounter of both types.
Architect: Fake Industries Architectural Agonism (Cristina Goberna, Urtzi Grau) + aixopluc (David Tapias)
Project Team: Ricard Pau (Architect). Jordi Royo (technical Architect). Josep Maria Delmuns (engineer)
Builders: OE family / Construccions Saura SL / Aluminis Ortiz / Fusteria Florentin
Budget: 320.000 euros
Dates: September 2010 – December 2015
Location: Camí de Sant Antoni, 26 – 43365 Alforja, Tarragona, Spain
Ground Floor Area: 330 m2
The plot is located on the northern limit of the hazelnut fields that completely surround the town. It is a flat, strong, good draining soil. It is planted with hazel trees and olive trees. There is also a very well kept orchard where their uncle grows their own food, and a metallic water tank. Alforja is a small town located at the base of the Mussara mountains. It has a slightly cooler climate than the rest of el Camp. The Mestral wind is very strong here, coming down the Coll d’Alforja all the way from the Ebro river.
The OE family wanted a mas (traditional Catalan rural home) with two houses in one: a summer house on the ground floor and a winter house on the first floor, on a hazel tree field at the edge of Alforja, a rural town with a climate more extreme, cold and windy than the rest of the el Camp region. The architects researched the local rural constructions typologies and a seasonal membrane that responds to daily weather changes. Learning from anonymous neighboring case studies, they reached a crossroad between a mas and a peasant’s storehouse.
The construction system adapts to the two differentiated programs: the ground floor can open totally in summer, so it becomes a big porch-selective strategy; the first floor is highly insulated and the floors, walls and roof are thought to give warmth -conservative strategy. Developing open source systems and interchangeable ingredients, exploring two tangent extremes between archaeology and innovation: the architects reclaimed the almost forgotten volta catalana local technique, and adapted industrialised components that came from afar, so that the house could be built in twelve months.
Choosing the wrong contractor slowed this process down to four and a half years. In the meantime, the bank reduced 30% the initial agreed loan. In order to save the house, the architects explored a radically optimistic management of adversity and uncertainty, where each setback was an opportunity to build a cheaper and better made home, with a breath of collage and bricolage air. The clients, the OE family lived right in front. Each summer, in the construction site, they played and bathed among the hazel trees, camped on the roof, while their new home slowly grew. This long shared resilience test gave them a close engagement with the family, the builders and local craftsmen. To celebrate it, the architects invited everyone to a calçotada, (traditional winter feast) where we cooked and had fun together.