The croatian based magazine Oris includes House MP in the issue number 81 with an article by Vasa Perovic (bevk perovic arhitekti) and Jure Grohar as follows.
A successful Dialogue / A House and the City
The introductory data on this project by young Spanish architects Ruben Alcolea and Jorge Tarrago are common, perhaps even banal –a house for a four-member family on the edge of a small, compact historical town. The first view of the documentation reveals a precisely articulated architecture, precise volumes and a considered, reduced selection of materials.
A contemporary, cultivated architecture, there is nothing to criticize, except for the question: where is the additional value, the conceptual jump, the innovation?
If we Google the location –Sesma, Navarra– we get modest results, several photographs of the protected historical town centre, some data on the weather and, interestingly –some photographs of this house (on pages with architectural novelties, Dezeen, Archdaily…). In Sesma almost nothing changes, except the weather, and this small, refined architectural intervention. Here we can begin to explain the basic starting points and strategic decisions made in regard to the project.
The house is located on the edge of a compact town, on the border between the constructed and the natural environment. The location combines the town’s two aspects, the compact, consolidated and conserved historical tissue, and the newer, but still compact construction of small, formerly manufacturing buildings mixed with newer housing.
One of the starting points of the project was the realization of the spatial continuity –the continuation of the fragments of the historical town, as well as the town’s edge and the beginning of the natural environment. The other significant part of the project is the combination of seemingly exclusive aspects, the continuation of the historical quality of the constructed on the one hand, and the banal achievements of contemporary life presented in various forms as anomalies and inarticulate, improvised constructions in the space (fences, overhangs, garages, gazebos) on the other hand. Therefore, the articulation of the constructed substance as ‘urban requirements’ through the prism of the user’s daily requirements.
The plot is located along the construction edge and on it a higher, two-storey volume with housing and a service volume on the ground level. The central building’s two-ridge roof is parallel to the street, the facade leans on the plot’s border, the north-western facade is blind and makes possible the feeling of the void in sequence with the neighbouring building. The ground-level garage volume continues the new construction to the neighbouring ground-level building.
The building’s spatial qualities result from simple and considered decisions. We enter the house through a windbreak connecting the garage with the ground level of the house with a kitchen and a living room. Between these parts there is an external atrium, which also connects them. It is possible to remove the sliding garage wall to the living room to create an open summer loggia from the garage that seems like a continuation of the living room. By lifting the garage doors the rooms can be opened towards the public space of the street.
The multi-functional basement is partially a two-storey space, well lit and connected with the living room. It functions as an informal alternative to the living room as an ambience undefined by the programme, occupied by the family’s youngest members.
The house manages to set up dialogues on various levels: between the objects geometry and the geometry of the surrounding constructed structures in the material treatment of the outside and the inside, in the organization of the interior and the opening towards the outside, as well as the formal treatment of individual architectural elements in relation to the whole.
The street is diagonal and ‘cuts’ both volumes of the house at a sharp angle -giving the building it rhomboidal form. The relations between the pairs of parallel sides, not meeting at sharp points in the ground plan, give this simple concept of the house a more complex, plastic form, at the same time integrating the house into the town –morphologically, the house becomes ‘part’ of the town.
The outer walls, done in rough concrete, remind us the construction of the neighbouring service objects, built ad hoc –in the material and conceptual meaning. With its brutal tactility, the building appends the neighbourhood, at the same time realizing a specific, precisely articulated quality. The outside appearance of the object is contextual and specific, but the interior is simple –polished poured concrete floors, ceilings and walls covered by whitened plaster board panels– universal and intended for contemporary life.
In a way, the exterior is subordinated to the town and the interior to the user. The contact point of these two worlds are the window openings. This is most clearly manifested in the ‘deep’ window on the first floor of the street facade, opening to the street from the interior. The dialogue between the orthogonal geometry of the interior and the ‘urban’ facade with a diagonal direction produces an almost organically formed window indentation that becomes a leading motif of the house’s facade in the sense of design and significance.
Further observation reveals that all the openings are designed with a clear message –if the house is a monolith, cast in a cold, rough material, its detail, its ‘humane’ articulation are the doors and windows that almost resemble pieces of furniture with their precise and ‘rich’ design and use of wood. The door openings on the ground floor are additionally distanced from the floor by their height and accessible by an additional wooden threshold –this finesse grants the wooden elements of the openings their autonomy which thus establishes a minimal, hardly noticeable hierarchy between the object and its surroundings.
We should not search for radical concepts, ambitions architectural forms or entertaining playful details from various architectural publications in this family house, but a designed and refined articulation of the relation between the living ‘inside’ and the context ‘outside’ on all levels –from the urbanistic to the material. The architects show us with this project how it is possible to ‘extend’ the town with a house, and only then –either at the same time or later– to realize a family home.