Solo House

The project for a holiday house in the country of Franja de Aragón, Spain, of the Chilean architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen is both monolithic and transparent.

This article was published in Domus 971, July-August 2013
Reaching the Solo House isn’t easy. The landscape is a tract of green heaven in the middle of nowhere in the province of Teruel, Spain.
Suddenly one encounters an endless staircase of rough concrete and, struck by contrasting sensations, one feels obliged to climb up it. Paradoxically, the house is so beautiful one gets a nagging feeling there’s something wrong with it. The Solo Houses are a project of 12 equally “curated” dwellings for use as second homes and commissioned to each architect with a carte blanche .
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain

However, architecture’s recent history shows that such experiments with prêts-à-consommer houses usually falter, as with Ordos 100 in China or Living Architecture in the UK.

Standing in its dominant position, the monolithic concrete structure has been devised in the landscape following a similar scheme to the same architects’ Guna House currently under construction in Chile. Materiality is a recurring theme in the architecture of Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen, and in the Solo House rough concrete and local wood constitute the basic elements.

Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain

The austerity of the design, where every space responds to a symmetrical logic, is reinforced by the toughness of the concrete and the simplicity of the furniture. The house was designed in order to forget about everything, to manifest the presence of the horizon around its entire perimeter.

Thanks to the sequence of rooms organised informally with open corners, the house can be transformed: the corners can become balconies, terraces or rooms depending on personal desires. Here one is reminded of Foucault’s words, “We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.”

Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
From the outset, the house appears as a manifestation of simultaneity and juxtaposition. To enter, one is compelled to choose between two doors that lead to the same dark space endowed with a single window. This pane of glass, however, is fitted into the wall of the swimming pool, offering a glimpse of the house’s central patio, or main room, as one gazes up through the water. This latter space is a roofless room perforated in all four directions, with the volume of water at its centre. The idea of designing the central pool as a room conveys a poetic quality reminiscent of Plato’s allegory of the cave, which describes how people may assume to be real what is in fact an illusion.
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Contradiction is thus the leitmotif. Reality and illusion are always side by side, playing with the senses. The limits between inside and outside are blurred by a transparent surface, perpetually open even when it’s closed. During the summer, with the rooms open to the landscape and delimited only by curtains, one is reminded of Raimund Abraham’s House with Curtains—in both cases the ritual of dwelling is explored through the psychological conditions intuited by the concept of the archetypical house. The Solo House transforms the inhabitants’ living conditions via its spaces. Since the rooms are too narrow to change the position of the furniture, one has to accept the layout as it is. There’s no need to fill the empty spaces in this house. The owner is owned by the house.
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
The house is located in the Matarraña region, in the mountainous area of the Iberian System, where large zones have suffered heavy depopulation since the early 20th century, resulting in entire villages being abandoned, especially in Teruel. In this context, one of the greatest challenges is to build houses that don’t rely on the infrastructure of nearby villages, making them self-sufficient by installing photovoltaic systems, underfloor radiant heating, on-site waste treatment and water storage systems.
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
It’s impossible to visit this building without questioning the need for such projects today. This house is an architectural masterpiece, a wonderful exercise with a fine result. Which makes one wonder why it’s worth building this kind of dwelling when it’s only going to be inhabited for a few months a year. Ethel Baraona Pohl , architect and editor.
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain

Solo House
Architects:
Mauricio Pezo, Sofia Von Ellrichshausen
Project team: Diogo Porto, Bernhard Maurer, Valeria Farfan, Eleonora Bassi, Ana Freeze
Structural engineering: José Perez
Building contractor: Ferras Prats; Ineco, Pablo Rived
Client: Christian Bourdais, Solo Houses
Area: 3,000 mq/ 313 mq
External finishing: concrete, glass
Internal finishing: painted wood, textiles, ceramics
Project phase: 2009-2010
Construction phase: 2010-2013
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain
Pezo von Ellrichausen, Casa Solo, Spain

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views