Photo © Cristóbal Palma

Solo House

Mauricio Pezo, Sofia von Ellrichshausen

Cretas, Teruel, Spain

In Pezo Von Ellrichshausen’s monolithic mountain retreat in northern Spain, a platform for outdoor living floats above a concrete podium.

By Josephine Minutillo

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At first glance, the idiosyncratic form of Solo House bears a striking similarity to John Lautner’s 1960 octagonal Chemosphere. In fact, the Chilean architecture duo of Sofia von Ellrichshausen and Mauricio Pezo was not even familiar with that iconic house—perched on a California hillside atop a concrete pedestal—when designing their top-heavy concrete structure.

Hidden away in the remote mountains of Spain's Matarranya region, south of Barcelona, the 3,370-square-foot Solo House is a study in contradictions. With no buildable ground to work with, the architects created some, raising the main floor for this off-the-grid—equipped with solar panels, water storage, a generator, and heating pellets—weekend retreat above the treetops. That open platform—punctuated only by 16 columns along the perimeter, where a series of rooms alternates with corner balconies—offers 360-degree views of the surrounding vineyards and olive groves and, in the distance, medieval towns.

Sliding floor-to-ceiling glass walls enclose the rooms but open completely, turning sleeping and dining areas into stately verandas. By contrast, one enters the house through the 31-square-foot cavelike podium, ascending a circular staircase to the elevated courtyard—the only living space enclosed by four walls, though it is open to the sky. At its center is a swimming pool—in essence, a giant void at the heart of the monolith.

The house “is about the elusive relationship between interior and exterior,” says von Ellrichshausen. She and Pezo were given carte blanche for the design, the first of a dozen planned to be built on a 120-acre site. Other architects involved in this house project (initiated by developer and curator Christian Bourdais) include Sou Fujimoto, Johnston Marklee, and Studio Mumbai.

January 2014
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