On a 50-hectare site within a national park in Matarranya, Spain, the developer Christian Bourdais has given 12 architects complete carte blanche to create a series of avant garde holiday houses.
If a holiday is about escaping the daily routine of life for something more exotic, then a holiday home should be about knocking down the four walls of traditional architecture in favour of the type of avant garde buildings that rarely make it past the drawing board stage. This is the thinking of Christian Bourdais, the French developer behind the Solo Houses project, who has given 12 architects complete carte blanche (with the exception of a budget) to create the ultimate vacation houses on a 50-hectare site in Matarranya, Spain. Already, one house has been completed and sold – Casa Solo Pezo by Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen, which consists of a concrete platform elevated above the trees and a sequence of rooms that surround an open-air courtyard swimming pool. Currently being built is Sou Fujimoto’s extraordinary lattice cube of tree trunks. And among those still at the rendering stage – but very much in development – is Didier Faustino’s explosion of rooms that radiate in all directions. Located two hours south of Barcelona in a protected national park, the Solo Houses offer escapism for design connoisseurs in an oasis of contemporary architecture.
Join us on a tour of the first four houses.
Geometric Forest by Sou Fujimoto
“Simply put, this house is like a geometric forest.Combining untreated wood in its natural form in an irregular lattice to create a loose boundary. Natural breeze flows through the gaps, and strong summer sun is shielded by this loose lattice structure; between nature and artificiality. A place both loosely protected and at the same time, thoroughly open.One is able to physically climb through this lattice, to the upper part of the structure is a space like a sky-terrace where one can find a place of refuge. Move through the space like climbing a tree.The gaps, or spaces between the lattice structure can be used as shelves, or a place for your favorite pot-plant.A place to live, which can be re-written as a place filled with opportunities or cues where one can engage, it is also a place to harness and invite elements such as wind and sun to orchestrate a pleasant space.This forest of lattice structure will be a place for living which is new yet primitive.”
- Sou Fujimoto
Solo Pezo by Pezo von Ellrichshausen
"This is a singular piece that occupies a dominant position in the landscape. It is a horizontal figure separated from the ground. A sculptural structure, unitary and monolithic, that is supported by a blind podium. An elevated condition visible from a distance and another that disappears under the foliage. The platform’s aerial world establishes its own cardinal directions. A perimeter ring, a panoramic rotunda measured by sixteen columns at regular distances, is occupied by a sequence of rooms with informally defined functions. Transparent and symmetrical rooms articulated by open corners. A portico too narrow as to hold a static room and too deep as to hold a vigilance balcony. On the platform’s aerial world there is a single interior room. This room has no roof. It is barely perforated in all four directions of the landscape and its base is occupied by water, a volume of water as profound as the high that separates the house from the natural ground. This contained water, the softest patio known, always finds the way to move the sky to the bottom of the earth."
- Mauricio Pezo andSofia Von Ellrichshausen
The Round House by Johnston Marklee
“The Round House follows the grand tradition of country villas sited within an idyllic landscape. Approached along the edge of a dense forest and the Parc Natural dels Ports beyond, the Round House emerges as a singular object amongst a grove of almond trees.The house consists of a single floor elevated above the almond grove to capture a panoramic view of the surroundings. Upon entry the visitor ascends a flight of stairs and arrives within the center of the house.The primary axis of the bilaterally symmetrical plan runs along the length of the entry stairway, and is shaped by two curving walls that connect the living and dining areas of the open plan. These walls create a compressed spatial sensation while directing the visitor outward towards the panoramic view at the perimeter. Hovering above the almond trees, the space of the open plan extends into the landscape. Following the lineage of Andrea Palladio's Villa Rotunda, Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, and John Lautner’s Chemosphere House, the Round House captures the continuous horizon line of the surrounding landscape while accentuating the different spatial characteristics of the site's orientations.”
- Johnston Marklee
In the Center of the Infinite by Didier Faustino
“On the mountainside, in the center of an unforgiving landscape, this shelter presents the promise of a new world. At once it protects from the natural elements but it still incorporated within the environment. This shell with large openings frames the landscape at numerous viewpoints in order to better appreciate its diversity. As if in the center of the Big Bang the home at times seems to suck light into its heart. The spatial cues (high and low, left and right) disappear and the flooring is able to place the body in a weightless state. As if a foreign body, the home invites its occupants to new spatial experiences between the infinitely large and the infinitely small.”
- Didier Faustino