(Close) A house around a holm oak tree. Single-family house in La Moraleja, Madrid

A house around a holm oak tree. Single-family house in La Moraleja, Madrid

Location: Urbanización La Moraleja, Alcobendas, Madrid

Date of project: 2018

Design team: José Luis Zabala de Lope (architect), Félix Aramburu and Daniel Moreiro (building envelope and MEP design), Juan Miguel Frías Cuenca (quantity surveying and health and safety project), Lolo Rojo (project manager)

Date of construction: 2019-2020

Construction team: José Luis Zabala de Lope (architect), Juan Miguel Frías Cuenca (construction supervisor and health and safety coordinator), Lolo Rojo (project manager), Alejandra Pombo (interior design), Marta Puig de la Bellacasa (landscape design), María Gil de Montes y Lara Elbaz (lighting design), Luis Trapero (MACE 2000, contractor),  Sandra Muñoz (construction manager), Felipe de la Morena (construction foreman)

Built area: 959,26 m2

Photographs: Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero)

The house is located in an old and prestigious development of the metropolitan area of Madrid. It was originally a privately owned piece of Mediterranean forest that, despite the demographic pressure in the area, has preserved a high environmental quality, due among other things to the careful preservation of the existing holm oaks. The plot where the intervention was developed has several of them, scattered in a soft topography whose most peculiar feature is a slight depression in the eastern half. Next to this depression the largest holm oak of the entire plot stands, and the project was born from the desire to create an indoor-outdoor space around this tree. In this way the house is organized as an L-shape plan whose wings embrace a space in the lowest part of the plot under the shade of this magnificent tree.


The eastern wing of the L, oriented from north to south, houses the private spaces of the owners on the second floor and its first floor merges with the exterior space next to the large holm oak. The western side, oriented from east to west, has ancillary spaces in the basement, common spaces on the first floor and children’s bedrooms on the second floor. Both wings are vertically displaced by half a level, allowing the gentle accommodation of the house to the existing topography. The connection between these half levels is solved by a generously glazed access block, which serves as the main lobby, a hinge between the two wings of the L and, as mentioned before, the connecting element for the different levels.


The house strives to display somehow a Mediterranean image, through the combination of white stucco and a type of snecked rubble very popular in the Spanish Mediterranean area. At the same time, by means of the volumetric fragmentation and the play of levels, it does not try to have an objective or imposing character, but to settle down smoothly in its surroundings, looking for the closeness of the trees and blurring its presence due to the play of light and shadow caused by this very proximity. As for the interior space, the same continuity with the environment is sought and particularly expressed in two areas: on the one hand, in the aforementioned multipurpose room of the eastern wing, that intends to merge with the outer space next to the great oak, especially in periods of good weather; and on the other hand, in the dining and sitting room of the western wing, enclosed in its southern side by four large sliding windows that cover a span of 10 meters and may be hidden into the walls. Once they disappear, the complete fusion of that space with the porch and garden on the south side of the plot is achieved.


The only moment when the design becomes more assertive is in the access volume. The owner wanted a space that, based on memories of his childhood summers, he called “a sea of glass”; a space where, upon entering, he could leave behind the burdens and concerns of everyday life and have the feeling of having arrived home. That space, which at its highest point reaches almost 10 meters, negotiates with the topography and the vertical displacements of the different parts of the house, and at the same time has a strong theatrical character: from the entrance a balcony allows the view of the lower area, with the great holm oak at the back; on the right it gives access to the main hall, and also gets visually connected to it by means of a horizontal gap; on the left it shows the way up to his private space and, finally, a bridge connects this point with the children’s area. We hope that the scale, the view of the garden at the back, the sunlight flooding the space at noon, and the complexity of connecting elements will be able to foster that feeling of “sea of glass” that the owner longed for and gave birth to his house.

(Close) A livable landmark. Single-family house in Playa Serena, Almería

A livable landmark. Single-family house in Playa Serena, Almería

Location: Urbanización Playa Serena, Roquetas de Mar, Almería

Date of project: 2020-2021

Project authors: Mariano Molina Iniesta and Juan Pedro Alías Hernández

Design team: José Luis Zabala de Lope (architect), Félix Aramburu and Daniel Moreiro (building envelope and MEP design)

Date of construction: 2021-2023

Chief architects: Mariano Molina Iniesta and Juan Pedro Alías Hernández

Construction team: Enrique Guisado Roca (construction supervisor and health and safety coordinator), Banni (Eva Bergerbusch, Maria Marchiori and Jessi Koldashi, interior design), Obras Fylcon (contractor), Luis Hervás (construction manager), José Hita (construction foreman)

Built area: 419,35 m2

Photographs: Alberto Amores and Adam García

Placed in front of a green field dotted with palm trees, Sierra de Gádor can be seen in the background, where the peak Nuevo Mundo, usually snowed during the winter, stands out. Immediate and distant surroundings produce in this way a happy combination of landscapes that rarely appear together.


In this light we proposed the construction of a soaring volume facing west, which not only allows the contemplation of a landscape that becomes especially attractive at dusk, but also dominates the environment in almost any direction. It is not, however, an element born out of the indifference to the rest of the house, but on the contrary, the gesture that culminates a sequence of spaces, arranged around an open courtyard, where daily life takes place. It thus becomes the last episode of a broken white line, covered with white ceramic, which rises gently, allowing the midday light to flood the kitchen and the hall. A line that suddenly becomes decidedly vertical, to create a vantage point to let the gaze fly.


From the point of view of construction and sustainability, strategies from the traditional architecture of the area are used: predominance of white for its ability to reflect solar radiation, generous overhangs on the facades most exposed to the sun, or arrangement of openings on opposite facades to allow cross ventilation. Regardless of the formal differences, a certain connection is established with the Mediterranean architecture of Almeria. And these strategies are combined with contemporary resources, such as the use of continuous thermal insulation systems on the exterior, bioclimatic pergolas, outdoor blinds or the use of renewable energies that, combined with home automation management tools, allow the inhabitants of the house to adapt lighting and thermal conditions to changing scenarios throughout the day and throughout the year.

(Close) On texture and shadow. Single-family house in La Granjilla, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid

On texture and shadow. Single-family house in La Granjilla, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid

Location: Urbanización La Granjilla, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid

Date of project: 2019-2020

Design team: José Luis Zabala de Lope (architect), Félix Aramburu y Daniel Moreiro (building envelope and MEP design)

Date of construction: 2021-2022

Construction team: Juan Miguel Frías Cuenca (construction supervisor and health and safety coordinator), Lolo Rojo (Project manager), José Luis Zabala de Lope (architect), Mace 2000 (contractor), Sandra Muñoz y Marcelo García (construction managers), Marian Dicu (construction foreman)

Built area: 423,50 m2

Photographs: Alberto Amores

La Granjilla is a small neighborhood located at the north of the metropolitan area of Madrid, developed in the 1960s by Juan Banús. From an environmental point of view, the most remarkable feature is the dense mass of pine trees that covers it, in contrast to the completely open landscape of farmland that surrounds it. Challenging the passage of time, the tops of these trees still provide some shelter to the houses that populate this site, casting their shadow and changing their appearance throughout the day. The seed of the project emerged from this experience.


This particular house had to be compact, forced by the dimensions of the plot and the urban regulations. Accepting this circumstance, which has obvious advantages from the functional and thermal points of view, we tried to make it compatible with a certain richness of volumes and textures, trusting the environment to do the rest of the work, in order to turn it into a living and changing organism. In this way, it is configured as a dialogue between two constructive systems: a heavy one, firmly seated on the ground, or stereotomic (quoting renowned critics of architecture, from Semper to Frampton or Campo Baeza). Based on exposed reinforced concrete walls, the depth of the openings, the geometry of their perimeter and the use of different textures are intended to reinforce its massiveness. The other solution is tectonic and generally lifted from the ground, and its lightness is not merely visual but literal, so that it does not actually have any heavy layers, but rather high-density insulating panels that effectively replace the heavy brick masonry walls typical of traditional construction. Both systems, tectonic and stereotomic, are intertwined to generate not only the play of volumes, but also the voids that intensify the relationship between interior and exterior, creating spaces of shadow in the outside and light in the inside.


In contrast to the material and tactile character of the exterior, the interior acquires a more neutral condition, with predominance of white and a type of natural lighting that strives to be as uniform as possible, thanks to the top-lighting opportunities provided by the sawtooth roof of the living room and the checkerboard of plastic vaults in the lobby. The human touch comes in the inside from the countless books and objects acquired by the owners after decades of living all over the world. On the other hand, the contiguity of spaces facilitated by the compact scheme of the project reinforces the spatial continuity of the public part of the house, in such a way that, just by displacing some sliding panels, all of it can be used and lived as a single space.


In short, the envelope of the house has been generated from a dialogue of textures and shadows, like an object that reacts to the changing light of the day and the seasons of the year, serving at the same time as a screen for the Chinese shadows cast by the surrounding trees. And in contrast, the interior is continuous and abstract, homogeneously illuminated, waiting to be animated by the daily life and memories of its inhabitants.

(Close) A balcony over the Mediterranean. Single family house in Aguadulce, Almería

A balcony over the Mediterranean. Single family house in Aguadulce, Almería

Location: C/Naranjo, 306. Urbanización Aguadulce, Roquetas de Mar, Almería

Date of project: 2017

Design team: Juan Pedro Alías Hernández (co-author of the project), José Luis Zabala de Lope, Álvaro Zabala de Lope (3D visualization), José Antonio Moral Villegas (health and safety project)

Date of construction: 2018-2019

Construction team: Juan Pedro Alías Hernández (co-director of construction), José Antonio Moral Villegas (construction supervisor and health and safety coordinator), Juan Miguel Rodríguez Noguerón (construction manager), Miguel Quiñonero Llamas (construction foreman)

Built area: 978,24 m2

Photographs: Jesús Granada

The site was a plot with great potential due to its location in the seafront and its prominence, but burdened with challenges of topographical, geometric and urban nature. Topographically, the sloped terrain was, as usual, an issue regarding accessibility and bulkiness of the construction. Geometrically the plot is very elongated and narrow, and added to that there was an urban planning regulation that linked the selected recess with the maximum height allowed for the house, which forced even more the linear character of the building. The proportion and location of the dwelling within the plot followed from these premises, giving the minimum possible width to front directly facing the coast, but at the same time taking advantage of the fact that the side façade towards Naranjo Street, even without having such a straight orientation towards the sea, does allow a clear view of it. A game of double directions emerges from this strategy, being particularly evident on the first floor: the circulation area and the master bedroom follow the orientation determined by the shape of the plot, and look directly towards the beach. The master bedroom is shaped as an enormous cantilever that constitutes the most dramatic feature of the composition. The rest of the spaces on this floor seek a biased orientation with respect to the previous one, which turns out to be the strict South, ideal from a climatic point of view. And in this way they manifest themselves as the gills (cantilevered as well) of a sort of shark rushing to return to the sea.

The overhanging volumes of both the main and secondary bedrooms create the much-needed shade over the ground floor, so that the living room and kitchen, with their corresponding outer extensions, are essentially the spaces resulting from raising the bedrooms from the ground.

This play of double directions finds its conclusion in the façade where the main access is located, turning its back to the sea. Here there is a split of volumes containing, on the one hand, the bedroom for the grandchildren of the family (which maintains the dominant direction of the plot) and, on the other hand, the studio of the owner which, while keeping its glazed side in a perfect south orientation, seems to point towards the access to the plot. It runs parallel to the service area on the level below, which is somewhat sunken in the ground, and the ramp leading to the garage. The vehicular access to the plot finds its ideal location in the most distant corner from the coast, in order to prevent the car from disturbing the calm contemplation of the seascape.

The linearity of the building allowed for the easy fit of an indoor swimming pool in the basement, one of the client’s requirements. In order to provide natural light to this space, a parallel triple height was attached to it, visually linking the three levels of the building. It is conceived as an authentic indoor garden, transforming the main circulations within the house into a stroll through the park, a walk in which the undesired view of the neighboring buildings is concealed with a translucent glass checkerboard, a walk that finds it climax and conclusion with the contemplation of the sea in its full extension, or in particular with the suggested view of Cabo de Gata, due to a special window that is rotated to point the location of that singular place.

From a material and constructive point of view there is an absolute dominance of white and glass, along with the search for the greatest possible cleanliness of all details. Outside, only a few elements challenge this logic, like the window that showed us the location of Cabo de Gata, and inside, the only counterpoint is the pavement. The integrated furniture, the paneling that makes doors disappear, the recesses hiding the aluminum window frames are, among others, the strategies that seek the minimum distraction in front of the direct contemplation of the sea, as if that were all that is needed to live in that house.

(Close) Sun patio and shade patio. Single-family house in Molino de la Hoz, Las Rozas, Madrid

Sun patio and shade patio. Single-family house in Molino de la Hoz, Las Rozas, Madrid

Location: C/Gerifalte, 113. Urbanización Molino de la Hoz, Las Rozas, Madrid

Project: 2013

Architect: Mariano Molina Iniesta

Collaborators: José Luis Zabala de Lope, Enrique Sánchez Vázquez

Quantity surveying and health and safety project: Juan José Herranz Calleja


Construction: 2014-2015

Construction chief architect: Mariano Molina Iniesta

Construction supervisor and health and safety coordinator: Juan José Herranz Calleja

Collaborator: José Luis Zabala de Lope

Builder: IE Sodelor (Francisco Hernández, construction manager; Ignacio Bellón, construction foreman). Aluminum framing: Technal (Aluminios San Nicolás). Brick manufacturer: Cerámicas Manuel Torres.

Built area: 459,1 m2

Photographs: Miguel de Guzmán and Alberto Amores

On a sloping plot with privileged views, we were asked to build a house essentially on one level, in which the kitchen had to be an outstanding element. With these premises, along with the desire to capture, as far as possible, the surrounding open space, the house was organized around two courts: one called the sun patio, oriented towards east and south, where the pool is located, and the shadow patio, facing north, more intimate and informal; the kitchen serves as a connecting element, participating simultaneously from both of them. The pool, transformed into a pond, extends right to its edge and aims to enliven it with a constant play of reflections.

The living area, which occupies the central position of the scheme, opens towards the sun patio and revolves around a huge hanging fireplace, which defines two distinct areas. Surrounded by a skylight and an impluvium shaped roof, at noon the fireplace becomes a large lantern that illuminates the whole central area. Finally, the bedrooms are grouped into two volumes which soar over the lower part of the site and dominate the landscape as watchtowers.

Constructively, rough textures and presence of matter were sought: the dominant materials are a slightly granulated concrete below ground level and masonry of handmade bricks above it. From the street, the latter appears as a substantially continuous skin, punctuated only occasionally by lattices made of the same kind of brick.

(Close) Waterlily house. Single-family house in El Bosque Country Club. León, Gto

Waterlily house. Single-family house in El Bosque Country Club. León, Gto

Location: El Bosque Country Club, León, Guanajuato (México)

Project date: 2015-2017

Design team: Enrique Martín-Moreno (co-author of the project), Bibiana Huber (interior design), Luis Eduardo Aparicio Torres (structural consultant)

Date of construction: expected 2024

Construction team: Enrique Martín-Moreno (co-director of construction), Bibiana Huber (interior design), Erika Andrade Cantú (Faktorluz, lighting design), Carlos Ríos (landscape design), Alberto Sánchez (structural consultant), Miguel Vega (contractor)

Built area: 479,60 m2

Photographs: José Luis Zabala de Lope (3D visualization)

The project is located on a narrow plot with very close houses on both sides. The access road runs along the south side of the plot, with little traffic, and the more private and spacious area of the garden is place on the north side, extending into the golf course and a nearby lake. The most unusual requirement of the project was to have a 4-meter-high ground floor, in a not excessively large dwelling. This posed the need to introduce some kind of texture into the ceiling, which would somehow humanize that space. On the other hand, the excessive height of the ground floor meant that, in the first proposals, the external volume was perceived as too imposing, somewhat out of scale with regard to the neighboring buildings. The solution to these two problems came from the dissociation between the ceiling of the ground level and the floor of the first level, as if they were independent elements. Seen from the street, the house has a series of low bodies that house ancillary spaces (garage, wardrobe, toilets, etc.). These volumes have a conventional height, and give a homely outlook to the project. In addition, these secondary spaces surround the main ones, which have the height requested by the client, and whose cover takes the shape of a central void (the main lobby of the house) from which ribbed slabs emerge in the four directions, flying over the entire ground level, including the secondary spaces. In this way, the rooms on the first floor, standing on top of this flying slab, follow a cruciform configuration that seems to levitate on the ground floor, and somehow reminds of the lightness of waterlilies floating on a pond. To reinforce this image, part of the first floor is transformed into a shallow plane of water constituting the closest view of the north-facing bedrooms.


The project could therefore be described as a central vertical void from which flying extensions emerge in the four directions, supported by a system of variable-depth reinforced concrete beams. This composition is completed by a series of secondary spaces of a conventional height that envelop the main spaces on the south side. The dialogue between these two types of spaces is reinforced by the fact that both will be made of different types of concrete. Finally, a system of steel profiles arranged on the four elevations will act both as an aid to the concrete structure and as a support for the façade glass.


From another point of view, despite the regularity of the site, the geometry of the house shows a certain complexity. On the one hand, a slightly rotated pavement strip leads the user from the entrance, through the house, to the swimming pool in the back garden. And on the other, the partition between the living room and the kitchen-dining room is rotated in the opposite direction, transforming the main living space into a funnel that opens up to the back garden, the golf course and the lake further back.

(Close) Nine subsidized row houses for young people. Las Terreras, Lorca

Nine subsidized row houses for young people. Las Terreras, Lorca

Location: Calle Victoria, s/n. Las Terreras. Lorca – Murcia, SPAIN
Date of project: Housing: 2004-2006. Urbanization: 2006
Design team: Sergio Carrillo (co-author of the project), Encarni Martínez García
Date of construction: 2006-2009
Construction team: Sergio Carrillo (co-director of construction), Encarni Martínez García and Juan Carlos Pérez Laserna (construction supervisors), Obras y Servicios Técnicos de Levante, S.A. (housing contractor), Silvestre Úbeda Ruiz (urbanization contractor)
Built area: Housing: 1090,91 m2. Urbanization: 1422,61 m2
Photographs: Mariano Molina

The project is located at a small village in the North area of the municipality of Lorca (Murcia), inhabited by some 150 people, and belongs to a plan developed by the city council to promote the permanence of young people at their hometowns. Designing a project with this purpose made us think, in the first place, about the idea of belonging to a roughly defined group- in this particular case the young people from Las Terreras- but expressing, in the second place, the individuality of each of its members.


The site was placed at the edge of the village, and basically consisted of a strip of land, 18-meter wide and 60-meter long, running from North to South, surrounded on its long sides by a new street, to the East, and a public garden, to the West.


The urban code explicitly forbade the design of recessed facades and therefore, instead of placing the private open space of each house at its front and rear facades, which is the usual arrangement, we decided to make it parallel to each house. By doing so, the plot became divided into a series of transverse strips, alternatively open and built. And the whole design shows on its long sides a constant rhythm that emphasizes the idea of unity, of belonging to a group.


The open strip of each house is only occupied by the living-room, which is covered by a volume whose appearance is clearly distinct to that of the ground level. If the latter is strictly ordered, rough and massive, the former shows a smoother texture, with changing colors and locations. This upper volume is responsible for expressing the singularity of each house.


The living-room is conceived as a transparent space with a twofold orientation, open first to each private patio, and second to the street and the garden. The goal was to blur the limits between public and private space, in such a way that the parents will be able to see their children playing in the garden while in the house; and the daily activity of each house will get beyond its limits, fostering some degree of interaction between neighbors.

From the environmental point of view, Las Terreras is located in the South-East of Spain, and obviously the most pressing issue is the heat in summer. But at the same time, winters are not as benign as one may expect. Being close to the mountains of Sierra del Cambrón, at an altitude of 700 meters, snow is not an infrequent event there. We thus sought a constructive system which provided good thermal insulation, high thermal inertia and as few thermal bridges as possible. We decided then to make all facades of a single layer of 29 cm-thick thermal-clay blocks. Its thermal transmittance, and the delay and damping of the thermal wave, are similar to those of an insulated cavity-wall, but the risk of interstitial condensations is avoided. On the other hand, the use of special elements for creating window lintels and cladding the perimeter of slabs removes almost any thermal bridge. All the outer envelope of the house is made of the same material, which in turn makes easier the execution of a continuous coating.

Each house includes an opaque wall facing South designed as a heat reservoir, to be exchanged with the interior space in a gradual and delayed fashion, with the purpose of homogenizing day and night temperatures around a comfortable average value during most part of the year.

In order to secure thermal comfort, ventilations have also been carefully designed. Cross ventilation has been made possible in most areas, due to the placement of openings on opposite facades, along with a narrow courtyard that runs parallel to the staircase. This courtyard, called “secret garden”, is a shaded space with vegetation whose purpose is to freshen the interior space in summer by a process of evaporative cooling; in other words, it is a reinterpretation of the traditional patio from the Mediterranean architecture.

The wall of thermal-clay blocks is also a load-bearing element. In this sense, its thickness is determined by the Spanish seismic code, as well as the addition of vertical and horizontal reinforcement. The code also imposes several requirements concerning the arrangement of openings, which influenced the appearance of both interior and exterior facades. In seismic areas, the use of a suspended slab for the ground level is problematic, since it creates short panels of masonry below, which will be subjected to high shear forces in the event of an earthquake. In order to avoid this situation, this slab has been made independent from the walls, through the use of non-removable plastic forms that directly rest on the ground.

Finally, regarding the creation of a new street on the Eastern side of the project, the low intensity of traffic, and the desire to make it an extension of the houses, led us to widen the sidewalk, to level it with the roadway and to add greenery, in search again of some interaction between the dwellers of the complex. It was intended to be a space to wander, to chat and to stay.

(Close) Single-family house in paraje de Altobordo

Single-family house in paraje de Altobordo

Location: Paraje de Altobordo, Purias, Lorca (Murcia)

Project date: 2006-2007

Design team: Sergio Carrillo (co-author of the project)

Date of construction: 2008-2009

Construction team: Sergio Carrillo (co-director of construction), José Barnabé Cortijos (construction supervisor), Construcciones Juan Mora S.L. (contractor)

Built area: 299,42 m2

Photographs: Mariano Molina

A couple that had just moved to Lorca decided to build a house in the countryside as their permanent residence. We met them through another client with whom we did not have a good relationship, so the first meetings were not easy. They did not like our first schemes and we were not confident about accomplishing what they demanded. However, some of their requirements were appealing for us: a house with no doors (at least at first glance), a fluid space, visual continuity throughout the different interior spaces, and between them and the surroundings, and a covered patio from which they could see the stars.

The husband, trained as a painter, drew some sketches that differed a lot from the image we had in mind, but somehow recalled some features of Coderch’s houses. From this point of shared interest we started developing the final solution. The bedroom area became then easy to solve, and our struggle focused on creating the richest sequences and transitions in the fewest built area.

In the living and service spaces, we emphasized the idea of spatial continuity (an endless space), up to the point where all of them became just one space. The use of pergolas at the terrace and the carport also strengthen the continuity between the inside and the outside. The project is therefore the combination of a centralized bedroom area around a covered courtyard and a linear sequence of spaces open to the landscape in all directions.

The bioclimatic devices in the house are quite simple, closer to popular architecture’s rationality than to a high-tech approach. South-east orientation and cross ventilation enable a good performance of the house in summer, which is actually the hardest season regarding weather conditions. The veranda gives shade in summer but allows the sunlight into the house in winter. The covered patio and the skylight’s ventilation system help to control the temperature and the humidity inside the house. In addition, the roof hides a space for solar panels, which supply almost all the hot water demanded by the house throughout the year.

During the building process, financial problems forced us to simplify the solutions proposed in the project, but we do not think that it affected the building; on the contrary, its spatial and volumetric power somehow increased by reducing the number of materials and details.

MMA is an architectural office located in Madrid that provides architectural design services at all scales and consultancy in the conception and calculation of building structures since 2002.

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