A Perch in the Spanish Pyrenees
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This striking home, set in the Spanish Pyrenees, makes the most of the towering mountains outside its windows. In 2003, an internationally renowned scientist called on young husband-and-wife architecture firm Cadaval & Sola-Morales to create a peaceful retreat for him, his wife, and two older sons in Spain's Aran Valley. The site was perched on top of a mountain, looking into the valley below. Yet all the charm of this setting was also an impediment; the tiny town required that the owners pay for a new road to access their house, heavy winter snowfall limited construction to just eight months a year, and all of the construction materials had to fit in a small truck and be assembled on site. The resulting home, finally finished just over a year ago, was well worth the wait. The architects, who are based in Barcelona and Mexico City, reused the shell of the preexisting stone farm house on the site; the structure, constructed of local stone, was solid enough to handle any unexpected tectonic rumblings. Long and lean, the streamlined shape is built to highlight the setting, with vertical slashes of glass down both sides and an angular expanse of glass in the front. The 4,800-square-foot space is separated into the couple's quarters above, and a separate living area for the sons downstairs. "Although we worked with huge constraints in terms of the construction regulations of the area, we're really happy with the final result," says architect Eduardo Cadaval. "It's a very simple, straightforward design that relates well to the landscape." Photography by Santiago Garcés. Above: Irregularly shaped windows, broad expanses of glass, and a cool color palette update this farmhouse, built in the local village vernacular. Above: A massive doorway was carved into the original stone farmhouse as an entry to the sons' apartment downstairs and also to let in natural light. Above: Two yellow boxes—one on either floor—provide a sunny strip of color and contain the stairs and cabinets for the home. Above: Spare and deliberately minimal, the furnishings and colors are a neutral backdrop to the view and provide "a peaceful envelope for the owner to read and write," Cadaval says. A Bertoia Diamond Chair with a fuchsia cushion is a playful pop of color. Above: Two lines of windows stretch along the 82-foot length of the house. The higher row of windows is designed for gazing at the mountaintop above; the lower windows overlook the plunging valley and distant snow-covered peaks. Above: Upstairs, the basic white kitchen was designed "to have a direct relationship with the landscape," says Cadaval. "That's why it's so minimal." Above: Downstairs, warm wood floors flow throughout the sons' dining and kitchen area. New window openings and clean white walls create a light-filled space within the old stone walls of the original farmhouse. Above: The substantial stone mass of the lower level is lightened by the addition of sleek materials like glass and slate. Above: The roof's peak mimics those of the surrounding Pyrenees. "We didn't do any landscape design," says Cadaval. "We just tried to capture the mountain essence as much as possible." Above: Despite its modern leanings, the home blends perfectly with its traditional neighbors in the tiny town, populated with just fifty houses. As Cadaval explains, "We wanted to add a contemporary but simple vision to what was already there."