This project won the 2013 Architizer A+ Jury Choice Award in the Architecture + Sustainability category. See the full list of winners here.
In contemporary architecture, the concept of sustainability is often associated with the latest technology. It might bring to mind glossy, high-performance buildings bedizened with photovoltaic cells, or LEED-stamped supertalls embedded with water- and energy-conserving systems. This notion of sustainability, however, caters to a metropolitan environment, its glass-and-steel facades blending in with the existing fabric of urban development. For its Off Grid Home in Extremadura, Spanish firm ÃBATON faced the challenge of transforming an abandoned stable tucked away on a hillside far from city infrastructure into a state-of-the-art, environmentally conscious family residence without disturbing the pristine ecological and aesthetic milieu of Cáceres, Spain. .
“We didn’t want the renovation to introduce out-of-tune elements that distorted the natural environment,” the firm explained. To do this, ÃBATON closely studied the vernacular architecture of Cáceres, analyzing what made the existing buildings so distinctive and well-oriented to the natural landscape of the province. “In some way, we were looking for a pattern that summarized a local typology.”
The firm concluded that the design should embrace the immersive natural surroundings of the site. The facade incorporates local stone and weather-beaten wood, and the plan maintains the basic organization of the former stable, converting its haylofts into bedrooms. Two-story-tall openings capture sweeping views of the countryside and let indoor and outdoor spaces comingle. Yet the Off Grid Home does not falsify a sense of local authenticity. Part of the beauty of the design is its integration of contemporary building materials and design concepts foreign to the area: concrete and steel frame a surprisingly modern interior; serene swimming pools double as tanks to hold water for irrigation.
Off Grid Home thus communicates that sustainability is not quantifiable by the number of solar panels lining a rooftop or how much recycled material is crammed into a design; instead, it is an idea to be carefully applied in new ways to each new situation.