The Young Old House

by Ofentse Sefolo
The Young Old House

Receiving a special mention in the Tile of Spain Awards’ architecture category, the jury highlighted the bold new solution to country living that the Young Old House represents, taking a contemporary approach as opposed to a nostalgic one. It also brings together the old, the revamped and the new in an innovative contemporary approach to rural/urban living.

The audacious use of ceramic materials is a star feature of the building’s exteriors, differentiating the new extension from the existing part of the house while also bringing colour, texture, durability and a unique appearance to the home. It was made even more unique by applying the same rigorous refurbishment criteria used in large-scale projects to a local, rural building.

People in transit
Over the last few decades, Cercedilla (in the Madrid region’s Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains) has been shaped by migration flows from the country to the city, from the rural exodus following the Spanish Civil War through to the Land Act of the late 1990s, which liberalised land management.

A new kind of country-cum-urban dweller has recently emerged: People who are returning to the country without actually having left the city. They are “people in transit”, creating new alliances that continue to transform the landscape. For instance, in the meadow of Ana and Manolo’s house, cows owned by local livestock owner, Luis, graze, hence helping to care for this part of the mountain.

Through the coexistence of traditional rural communities and new rural/urban dwellers, hitherto unseen ecological relations can be forged that are fundamental in maintaining a balance and in caring for areas in a process of change.

The house that grows in layers
After they inherited the house, Ana, Manolo and their four daughters decided to extend and adapt the building to fit in with their rural/urban lifestyle. The house, which was built in the 1970s, did not have any thermal insulation and neither did it open onto the landscape.

As a result, a three-fold progressive strategy was designed to extend, thermally insulate and open up the house to the surrounding landscape, considering comfort, energy consumption and the enjoyment of its rural setting.

The first phase consisted of its extension by adding three roofed volumes, clad in ceramic tiles that differentiate the new part. This section is made up of the extension to the living room, the four daughters’ bedroom (in the former garage and woodshed) and a room for the heating system. The walls were shortened and instead a metal structure was designed, so that the new living room opens out fully onto the surrounding countryside.

The roof was replaced, re-using the original materials by transforming it into furniture. During subsequent phases, Sahari, a former building labourer now employed by the family, took down each of the facades to insulate them and put them back during successive summers.

Turning old into something else
At the Young Old House, nothing is in its original place. The home’s furniture is made of reclaimed materials from the old facade and roof. Now the ceiling is on the table (the tables in the dining room are made of four old cut-down beams), the facade features a long bench made of reclaimed sleepers, the new doors are red reassembled shutters, the slate from the old roof is waiting in the barn to be turned into a future facade, the granite from the woodshed is now the new step leading outside etc.

In addition to these old, reclaimed materials, other new ones, mainly made of metal, bring the house into closer contact with the landscape: A hidden door leading directly into the countryside, revolving lights to dine in the meadow on summer nights, four removable beds and two round windows looking out across the landscape from north to south.

Fact sheet:
Special mention in the architecture category – the Young Old House (Cercedilla, Sierra de Guadarrama, Madrid).
Architects: Enrique Espinosa and Lys Villalba.
Photos: José Hevia.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Tile of Spain Awards for the information contained in this article.

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