A 400 m2 shelter built for a little under 100,000 € next to Madrigal de la Vera.
Madrigal de la Vera is located in the province of Caceres, in Extremadura. It is considered the starting point of the Gredos mountain range and its land has plenty of water and grazing for abundant cattle. The Tietar River and the Alardos Gorge shape the territory, offering large granite boulders which have been used for the construction of roads since Roman times. These watermelon-sized boulders are part of the traditional construction material in the area. Farmyard walls and other boundaries rely on these boulders used without any mortar. Thus, light filters through its joints and corners, allowing for the quick growing of all sorts of vegetation that surrounds buildings in no time at all. Not for nothing was this land enviously called “Little Galicia”.
Malu, or Luz, or even Pieldevaca – cow’s skin – for her clients, is my decorator friend who brags about being Galician. She comes to this part of the world to spend long weekends and this is where she has just built this house, or shelter, as we prefer to call it. Arturo, I only have 100,000€ for everything. From there, we started to work together on a project, on a state of mind, with a shared attitude.
The first time I came to visit her, it was the birthday of Is, her quite large younger brother. There, beyond Madrigal, the brother had built another house atop a hill a few years earlier. He spends his time like an anchorite, minding his own business, leading a more secluded life than a public one, just like Alejandro de la Sota, the master from Pontevedra, liked to put it. With a certain charm, he criticises Malu’s house and I return the criticism, gracelessly…He’s always asking me when I’m going to finish it. And that is how we spend our site visits, among lamb chops, baby lamb roasts and some local red wine called Habla del silencio. That is where Is lives, taking care of two cachena cows and picking olives. The cattle are a little exotic for the area but according to some acquaintances, their meat is the best in the region. There’s no wonder the new born calf is called Chuleton – T-bone steak. Well, that is where they waited for us, the first day, bagpipes in hand, playing a muñeira. A Galician family. As Galician as me. In their own particular way.
But of course, La Vera is not only known for its Gonzalez brothers. La Vera is known for its hunting, its cows, its sheep, its microclimate and, obviously, for its tobacco and pepper curing barns. And also for its paprika. It all generates a vast and complex local culture that takes advantage of the land’s resources and makes the most of them to satisfy needs with ingenuity and little money. There are estates closed off by granite boulders collected from the alluvial plains; fences made from bed bases and forgotten wires or other simple ingenious metal structures and shelters and curing barns made of turned exposed brick so as to create latticework and ventilation. Buildings made with concrete blocks, some of which have been hammered out to create a draft for a quicker drying of the tobacco leaves. Unbiased. Warehouses with a metal structure to store hay or shelter animals; catalogue warehouses or built by the village blacksmith with whatever profiles were at hand at the time. A corollary of engineering solutions described as popular, domestic or simple, carried out with local resources. The tremendously effective odd job, executed by brilliant illiterates (1).
That is how we conceive this shelter. A building that disappears, showing its fundamental guts as it blends in with the woods. A prefabricated structure from GPS tecnicas metalicas. A construction that breathes through its holes and protects itself from the sun under a parasol and from the rain with an umbrella. A set of catalogue solutions, nothing more, which were handy and of course the materials we found in the warehouse in Oropesa at the lowest price. With a bit of help that is, from Miguel and Almudena, the locksmiths from Madrigal. Here, architects were mixed together with local tradition and available materials.
The house is cool in the summer and rapidly warms up in during winter. I can guarantee it.
Did we design anything? Well, maybe…we decided to separate the espagnolette from the metalwork. Thus the mechanism is appreciated and left naked, more sincere. We also decided to put a small house within a big structure which protects it from the sun and the rain from a distance. The metal structure offers an inside sensation, of psychological refuge, of own space, whilst within the masonry structure the world is presented as comfortable, conditioned. The home that Pieldevaca has created with her massive intuition. A sweet and soft shelter on the inside of a hard and efficient artefact.