Casa en Port de la Selva, Spain | Emiliano López & Mónica Rivera

Architects Emiliano López & Mónica Rivera have recently completed Casa en Port de la Selva, a summer house in Gerona, Spain.

The house is characterized by its whitewashed volumes, clay tiles, its adaptation to the landscape and extension outdoors via patios, protected by shade clothes supported by tensile cables.

Photos © José Hevia

Project description by Emiliano López & Mónica Rivera Arquitectos:

The house slots into a triangular-shaped piece of land with a steep slope towards the north, located in the high part of Port de la Selva. In order to minimize the visual impact of new structures, local regulations do not allow the built volumes of the house to exceed the uppermost point of the land. In keeping with these physical and regulatory restrictions, the house is formalized as a horizontal block at ninety degrees to the slope of the terrain with ventilation openings crossing from north to south. Unfolding on the south side of the building is a patio hollowed out of the shale. Extending on the north face is a wide terrace with sea views through the pines. At the southwest end of the house, set back from the main spaces, there is a small swimming pool, bordered by shale-cum-gravel and surrounded by pine trees, which afford it protection from the north wind. Due to the pronounced slope and the building's adaptation to this, a wide variety of outside ambiences are articulated around all the façades of the house.

To enhance its adaptation to the triangular terrain, the building has a kink at either end, thus formalizing two rotated volumes that accommodate bedroom and bathrooms and extend downwards to a lower level. The unilevel central body houses the kitchen, dining room and lounge, all of which open directly onto the terrace to the north and the main patio to the south.

Wedged between the whitewashed volume of the house and the exposed shale of the excavated terrain, this southeast-facing patio is protected from the strong, persistent Tramontana winds. Two mulberry trees and tensile cables to support shade cloth and a future trained vine afford protection from the intense summer sun. The patio is the foremost space of the house and also provides access to it at the eastern end.

At each extreme of this main patio, a small patio resulting from the kink at the end of the principal volume accedes to the bathroom facilities of the rooms, providing a place to dry one's bathing costume and to take an outside shower before going inside. These two small patios, which work as an entrance area, are closed off with wooden gates to shield them from view from the main patio, and incorporate a flowering tree. One of these patios provides restricted access to the solarium on the roof via a narrow flight of steps.

On the lower level of the two end-rotated volumes there is a guestroom with bathroom in one and an artist's studio in the other. Both spaces open northward in the direction of small gravel landfills. These lower rooms are independent of the upper floor, and are reached by walking around the house or by descending the narrow flight of steps at the ends of the terrace. 

The house is built with thick double walls of ceramic brickwork with rockwool between them. The roofing is ventilated and made of ceramic, with the prefabricated vaulting and beams open to view on the inside. The outside of the house is faced with lime mortar and protected from the salty atmosphere by silicate paint. The floors are of handmade tiles of light-colored clay and the window frames and louvered blinds are of wood, protected by breathable paint. The loadbearing wall of the terrace, swimming pool and outside flights of steps is faced with a thick mortar with natural pigments that replicate the surrounding earth tones.

The cross-ventilation provided by the orientation of the building, plus the type of construction used, results in interiors that breathe and are cool and shady in summer, in echo of the buildings of yore. The high thermal inertia of the house retains the heat produced in winter and profits from its warmth, thus minimizing energy loss.

Plan © Courtesy of Emiliano López & Mónica Rivera Arquitectos