Casa Hernandez by Langarita Navarro Studio
Location: Madrid, Spain
Status: completed (2020)
The developments proliferating on the outskirts of Madrid, in wastelands and brownfields surrounding the city, show an urban planning that is completely indifferent towards the landscape and any kind of cohabitation with nature. Broadly speaking, strict planning regulations have resulted in plots built to the brim and surrounded by a narrow strip of garden unlikely to thrive.
This project is in one of these new-build neighbourhoods, on a south-facing plot at the end of a long row of semi-detached houses, alongside a small park. The clients’ cosmopolitan life, the memories of the landscapes they lived in the north of Europe, and their dedication to the world of art led to the need to challenge planning regulations and secure their two coveted aims: bright spaces with high ceilings for their artworks and the need to live with connections to a diverse exterior space. The project is proposed as a layering of actions that are articulated in the cross section.
The first action consists in creating a new ground zero by excavating and lowering the entire surface of the plot. This is how the generous heights are achieved – otherwise impossible due to regulations – as well as bringing the house closer to the water table, which provides enough humidity to improve the thermal performance of the house and the lush green gardens with minimal watering needs. The usual programme organisation of the house is inverted. The basement becomes a privileged space bringing together the common and playful spaces of the house, open to two Atlantic landscapes – one bright and diverse in the southern patio and another serene and uniform in the patio to the north.
The second action is to design a heterogeneous collection of connectors that help resolve the change in elevation between the street and the built volume: an oblong wooden walkway-ramp, a permeable tramex surface as a parking space for vehicles, and the swimming pool garden slab. They are all designed to encourage the airflow and improve the evapotranspiration of both the lower level gardens and the pool water. These air movements improve the thermal performance of the house during the hot summer while also still allowing light and sunshine into the house during the winter.
The third action consists in elevating a lightweight timber volume on a set of slender supports; housing the most private part of the home. The piece returns to the alignment of nearby buildings and gives volumetric continuity to the urban elevation. As opposed to the ubiquitous brickwork in the neighbourhood, the project proposes a ventilated façade using wooden shingles. The piece faces the east to make the most of the views towards the adjacent park and sheltering it from the neighbouring views to the south and north. On the rooftop, a cacti garden provides views to the distant mountain range of the Sierra de Madrid. Lastly, a generous steel and timber helix staircase bridges the project vertically and provides an enjoyable, dynamic view of all its layers.