House in Salobreña, Andalusia, Spain
The House on the Cliff
The House on the Cliff, Salobreña, Granada.
This house was a challenge for its architects, Jaime Bartolomé and Pablo Gil. The owners fell in love with the stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea from this difficult plot situated on a 42-degree slope. They dreamed of a house facing the sea were "it was always summer",where you are able to enjoy great festivities with friends and at the same time that maintained hidden in the privacy of prying eyes. This ambitious dream had to be integrated into the landscape without giving up a spectacular and innovative design, with an extremely tight budget.
The house is developed on two floors: a large terraced living area, following the slope of the hill, connected to a cantilevered terrace with a swimming pool, and a second floor with rooms that have viewpoints on the roof. The house is buried into the steep slope and benefits from the annual constant temperature of 19.5ºC of the earth.
The livable spaces are covered by a curved double shell of reinforced concrete which plays with the geometry of the ground whilst framing the views and orienting the airflows that come from the sea into the interior. This shell is supported on the retaining walls that are 14.5 meters apart from each other, with no other internal supports, columns or walls. Thanks to this, the main space of the house, organized into designed islands of activity, can also become a stage and an auditorium for 70 people, also handy to host large parties, completely open to the landscape and with a terrace separated by a movable glass facade.
'The shape of the house and the metallic roof produces a calculated aesthetic ambiguity between the natural and the artificial, between the skin of a dragon set in the ground, when seen from below, and the waves of the sea, when seen from above'. Jaime Bartolome architect
This house represents the return of artisanal architecture.
The construction of the House on a Cliff relies heavily on craftsmanship and local labor. The house was to be built during the worst possible financial crisis in Spain, with 26% of unemployment in the country, and close to 36% unemployment rates in the region where the house was built. In this social context we decided to avoid machine made industrial construction systems and develop an architecture that is based on many hours of labor. The most complex elements of the house can serve as an example of this approach: the reinforced concrete structure of the roof, based on a manually executed metal formwork, the tiles that cover the roof are handmade and hand placed, the ceilings made of gypsum plaster, the interior bespoke furniture made of fiberglass and polyester resin are all designed through digital design software, but manufactured by hand on site, using the ancient method of "measuring from plans" and also allowing room for the workers creativity and abilities to achieve the general aesthetical goals.
Apart from this aspect, this decision has proven to be important in other angles. Due to the complexity and the beauty of the house and the skills that had to be developed, it has been a challenge for the people involved on site, and it has proved that everyone is ready to go the extra mile when there is an ambitious goal that is worth achieving. This increases the quality of the construction, but also, and most importantly, it has been very important for the workers as it represented for them a way of testing, learning and finally showing their abilities that potentially opened them new job opportunities. This has also been useful for them in regaining the dignity lost in their profession, as industrial construction products are quite boring to put together, especially when a similar action has to be repeated endlessly.
The house features two complex elements that have been economically feasible thanks to technical innovations. The roof was produced by a handcrafted formwork system developed by a local engineer Dr. Manuel Rojas, using a very efficient deformable metal mesh. This technique was manufactured at a much lower cost with respect to the options that are commonly used in construction such as timber or steel formworks. The finished surface of the roof is composed of zinc scales placed and fabricated by hand from raw material. This has reduced the cost compared to prefabricated systems offered by the industry. Similarly, the fabrication of the furniture is made completely by hand digital models. These techniques that jump between the manual and the digital have produced a unique blend of qualities.
Regarding energy performance, the house is inserted in the ground and we have used to our benefit the constant temperature of the ground, 19.5 º C through the year. Between the interior and the retaining walls there is a 40cm air cavity that is used to regulate the amount of air at 19,5ºC that goes into the house, how much goes into the pre-cooling or pre-heating of the HVAC system, and how much has to be ventilated in order to control the humidity levels. The air cavity is sensitized and controlled intelligently but with a manual overrun when needed. Another important feature is that the roof is a double curved concrete shell, each shell 7cm of concrete, and it has 40 cm of insulation in between that served as the formwork for the concrete of the upper shell. This, being a cheap construction method, allows for a magnificent mix of insulation and thermal inertia. As a result of these two features, the house does not use any form of heating or cooling during the year.
This house shows that a different type of construction is possible and that the developer and the user have the possibility of obtaining a better product at an affordable price. It is a matter of desire, talent and commitment to an idea amongst everyone involved.
'A house is to be enjoyed in front of the sea. A project to explore the limits of expression and integration into the views. Also to show that with design and technical innovation you can create extraordinary buildings even on a low budget´. Jaime Bartolome Architect
The House has a constructed area of 250 m2
The plot has an area of 725m2
The house is distributed:
Ground floor: Living room, dining room, kitchen, guest bathroom, ‘island’ style chilling out areas distributed over the different levels of the plot and a porch and swimming pool.
Floor 1: 3 bedrooms with 3 bathrooms.
Architects: Pablo Gil y Jaime Bartolomé. GilBartolomé Arquitectos
Photography and video: Jesús Granada.
The House on the Cliff has been selected by BBC as one of the most extraordinary homes of the world. It is part of the film The world's most extraordinary homes · Coast. Award-winning architect Piers Taylor and actress/property enthusiast Caroline Quentin travel the worldto tour unconventional homes in extreme places. Available in Netflix.
Salobreña, Andalusia, Spain