(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.


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