“Encuentro house” is located in a fertile valley within the Tabernas desert, in the southern Spanish province of Almería. The project includes the refurbishment of an existing farmhouse, a typical cortijo built with thick earth and stone walls and flat clay roofs, all painted chalk white.
Connections. Workspace for each of the two owners is important in the design. As well as connectivity: the owners must keep in constant contact with their respective countries of origin (Britain and Pakistan). This is achieved both virtually and physically. A small dish aerial provides enough broadband for the virtual connection. As for the physical, the location is within 15 minutes drive to Almería airport, with cheap flights to Britain. An old cortijo in the desert becomes a hyper-connected home.
Refurbishment. Despite the major functional changes, the refurbishment is very respectful with the original image. The only new elements visible from the local road are the solar panels. The structure for the panels, glazed below and behind, helps to provide the necessary natural light for the painter’s studio, not affecting the traditional small-window image. The panels themselves keep the new strip of windows in the shade, during the scorching summer, when the sun is high up in the sky.
Meeting point. The house is the result of combining the two owner’s different needs. There is a central entrance area with common spaces. To the west, her painting studio and private rooms, in direct relationship with the landscape outside. To the east, his quarters are more on the car side of the house; the electronic equipment in his studio is protected by the existing thick walls with small windows. The link between the old and the new is an open courtyard full of water with two stepping stones. A small gap has been formworked in the wall for the cats to wander freely from one side to the other.
Communication patio. The open courtyard and the other large openings in the house are protected by a simple device: a double-layer laser-cut steel sheet is welded on branch-shaped battens and galvanised; the two layers are offset in such a way that direct sunshine is almost blocked off in the summer, but the lower winter sun rays find larger gaps and cast an intricate shadow into the adjoining rooms.
Hill. Her room merges into the landscape, partially covered by the surrounding bancales and hills. From the hilltop there are impressive views of the valley, the Arab castle of Tabernas and the setting sun.
Studio The painter’s studio is the highest room of the house, raised by the galvanised steel structure that holds the solar panels in the optimal orientation, and by the Vierendeel truss that supports the hill (50 cubic meters of earth on top of the flat roof). A layer of cane is laid 4 cm above the insulating sandwich panels on the roof for extra sun protection.
Window – railing Her room is partially covered by the hill. The resulting window shows literally the shape of the mound and is protected by a steel reja railing. From the bed to the bathtub there is a gradient of shelter, from sleeping in a secluded cave to bathing by the garden.
Vegetation An important part of the budget has been invested in vegetation. The hill is covered with coconut fibre matting to provide a stable base for the roots and avoid erosion while the plants settle. A drop by drop watering device has been installed throughout.