Neither being nor object can be understood in an isolated way. We define ourselves and gain meaning through interactions and frictions, reactions and relationships. Architecture, an object which hosts life, positions itself halfway between entity and artefact, multiplying the means of friction that surround it. Territory and human being begin a dialogue with each other through landscape and architecture, hence why it’s necessary to know the characteristics and encounters that exist between them.
Territory is the spatial expression of a continental area, it is our vital space. However, the landscape is our interpretation of the territory; it is an anthropocentric concept in our mind. The very image of a landscape results from the action and interaction of both natural and human factors. Architecture inserts itself within the territory; it takes up ground and generates space. Architecture feeds the landscape, whilst simultaneously being born of it and thus we can either feel indifference towards it, or polarity: attraction or rejection.
The proposal of nomarq|estudi d’arquitectura (nomarq/study of architecture) for the ISH03 materialises these feelings in a work of territorial architecture, in which the landscape is viewed as an object of desire. It’s easy to define architecture through its relationship with the surroundings; via contrast or imitation. However, venturing deeper into this interdependent relationship in a profound and visceral way isn’t so straightforward.
The project for the Inhabitat Study House 03 is not anchored in Mediterranean soil, but instead seems to form itself from its own topography: surroundings overlooking the sea, cut like levels of a model in horizontal strips, like a memory of its agricultural past. From this cultural territory, man’s gaze observes another landscape; untouchable, immalleable, which cannot belong to anyone because it belongs to itself: the sea.
The ISH03 presents itself as a typographical element, defining new ground, new terrain, subject to the inevitable descent to the sea. The dwelling is set upon two overlapping principal levels, with a strong tectonic character: the higher level, of exposed concrete is dedicated to night time use, whilst the lower, comprised of walls of local stone, hosts the rooms for ‘day use’.
Both entities are open to the landscape in a respectful relationship and are welded and fused through the feedback it gives them. There are big openings from which one can soak up the views, or walkways, which at the same time as maximising use of the sunlight and ventilation, signify a way of establishing contact with the landscape. The lower level is tangible and uses material from the land to define accessible areas, passages and sutures with the surrounding plots; the upper level observes the intangible, and yearns as if from the timid distance of an admirer, for the eternal blue. The greatness of the concrete cantilever structure reinforces the topographical image of the construction and expands the interior space. This produces intermediary, ‘in between’ areas: sunlit terraces and shady sheltered spaces.
The outdoor area is completed by another level which overreaches the water, with an overflowing pool which blurs the line of the horizon and ushers in greater desire for the sea. Within this work of nomarq, it is drastically difficult to discern what is the landscape and what is not, as the landscape itself is host to manmade changes, which this project picks up and uses in its own form. It’s difficult to know if the building is absorbing the landscape around it, or whether it’s the landscape that’s trying to absorb the building.
This game of tensions between architecture and territory is understood through the interior of the house, where one goes about discovering rooms like little contemplation corners. The connection between them is fluid and diffused via an airy space, yet also controlled through the interpretive opening to an outside presence, which illuminates and teases. The inside of the house is a primeval space, almost karstic, between the lifting up of the architecture and the intervention on the very same ground. The materiality, sobriety and minimalism make one think of a rocky hollow and exhibit a telluric attraction which lures further into the building. In seeking the nobility of materials, the elegance of their formation and working with tonality and texture, Nomarq has found spaces of intimate comfort.
What comes to mind is the lasting image of Case Study no. 22 of the Stahl House of Pierre Koenig, which Julius Shulman immortalised in black and white. This Case Study House managed to use materials taken from industrial sites, placing them in a domestic space. This was done in a unique and ‘glamourous’ way, thus launching the idea of a new way of living and the American Dream. Nomarq uses stony materials, as natural as stone itself and as artificial as concrete, both treated with the same level of care, within a reinterpretation combining both the popular and the landscape. In Shulman’s image, almost voyeuristic, the transparency of its lit interiors in which women chatted on couches, gleamed like a lamp upon the city of Los Angeles. The object of desire was not the city above which the building floated, but in fact, the displayed interiors. In Nomarq’s building these perspectives are reversed, therefore defining, as CSH did, a desire for a way of life, in which the dream is always the Mediterranean.
Work: Inhabitat Study House 03
Type: Detached house
Location: Benissa, Alicante, Spain
Author: Estudio nomarq | estudi d’arquitectura
Promoter: INHABITAT BUILDING S.L.
Designer: Ramón Riera Cervera
Builded surface: 510.75 m2
Construction manager: Ramón Riera Cervera
Director of construction execution: Pascual Ortolá Mengual
Photography: Milena Villalba
Text: Ana Asensio
Translation: Elyse Lake