The story of Can Manuel d’en Corda is a very happy one. In a stunning plot in Vénda des Cap de Barbariain in the West of the picturesque island of Formentera, Spain, sits a traditional and pretty special house called Can Manuel de’n Corda. The house, which encapsulates the domestic vernacular architecture developed in Formentara between the late eighteenth and mid nineteenth centuries, was crying out for some tender love and care. Sitting pretty, surrounded by a forest of pines and junipers, it sat tight, waiting to be noticed and transformed. And one day, that’s just what happened.
Architects Marià Castelló and Daniel Redolat realized the potential of Can Manuel de’n Corda and set out to preserve the house, whilst adding volume to create a home that embraces its location without necessarily impacting its habitat. Whilst the house’s common areas have been maintained, the limited palette of materials used in the design, acts in turn to showcase the house’s traditional features. And so alcoves, stone walls, sloping ceilings and striking beams really stand out in the fresh minimal scheme. Like the original beams, the external joinery is made from solid iroko wood, and additions such as a striking steel fire place in the living room really complement this home’s existing character. The featured furniture includes Mediterranean design classics such as the Torres Clavé armchairs and Miquel Mila Cesta luminaire, as well as the traditional esparto skating chairs made by local artisans, thus enhancing the sense of this house’s rustic native roots.
Can Manuel d’en Corda, Vénda des Cap de Barbaría. Formentera, Spain, by Marià Castelló + Daniel Redolat, Photography © Estudi Es Pujol de s’Era, via: Yatzer
Consisting of an office & a residential space the division of the two lifestyles has been executed with symmetry and complete severity. The small architecture studio is present in the north side and repeated on the south side in the form of a space of identical dimensions in the small but smart dwelling. One of the greatest features of indication for these two divisions is the subtle niche present exteriorly on the two sides of the structure subtly indicating the division between work and play. This is a great detail representing continuity beyond the walls of the structure and onto the landscape. Wanting however to achieve the perfect harmony between earth & man the small setback around the edge in section creates the sensation that the building is floating over the site.
Moving inside the interior follows the exact same language of harmony. Dividing the two type structures from within is a nucleus of services consisting of bookshelves, bathroom, kitchen, fold out beds, cupboards and two sliding walls which divide these main areas in order to create more intimate spaces such as an annexed office or guest room. The interiors are both bright and pure where one’s focus is drawn to the outside views. The main internal presence is of course the Iroko wood element, which in combination with the naturally white interiors, is portrayed as the dominant feature. With its horizontal and vertical presence, it dominates the areas and successfully brings together all the relations.
More about this project: Home-Office in Formentera
The writer’s studio is a place for one person to work, read and listen to music. Open vistas to a pond and fields are to one side, the other side is immersed in deep woods. The overall impression of the structure is deceivingly simple. Each façade is composed with distinct apertures specifically arranged to the light, the views and tailored, like a bespoke suit to his size and eye level. The inside is, uncluttered and elegant, unified by the use of walnut.
Writer’s Studio, by Cooper Joseph Studio
A simple bungalow dating from 1967 on a hexagonal ground plan had been radically altered and modificated through the years. Although this had made the house bigger, it had also become increasingly inward-looking. The expanding wings were steadily enclosing the heart of the house with the hall and living quarters, and direct contact between the house and the magnificent surroundings was largely lost. The original detailing and material form were consistently adhered to during all previous interventions but the result was now thoroughly outmoded and of a poor technical quality. The house has now been given its fourth look. The principle guiding this most recent intervention being to create a house that is much more sustainable and able to reinstate the lost relationship between it and the landscape. There has been kept as close as possible to preserving the existing house, which gave the first step towards a sustainable end-result. Taking the existing structure as the basis, the outer walls and roofs were modernized by adding insulation and replacing all windows and larger areas of glazing. The walls in the central section of the house were removed to create a new living hall looking out onto the surroundings on four sides. In addition, the physical bond between house and landscape has been consolidated by an all-glass pavilion attached to the living hall that reaches out to the brook flowing past the house.
Villa 4.0, by Dick van Gameren Architects, Photography by Primabeeld
Sited on the edge of a 70-metre high cliff, the plan of Holman House refers to Picasso’s painting The Bather. It contains a complex series of fluid living spaces set within a meandering perimeter that arcs, folds and stretches in response to sun, landscape and views. Living and dining areas cantilever out over the ocean, allowing dramatic views up and down the coast. The lower floor forms a base that is built from rough stone walls like an extension of the cliff below. These walls continue along the cliff edge to form a series of eccentric terraced gardens and a vase-shaped rock pool.
Holman House, Sydney, Australia, by Durbach Block Jaggers
The house’s original owner and designer was John Black Lee, an architect affiliated with the so-called Harvard Five — a group of architects that included Philip Johnson and Marcel Breuer who began settling in New Canaan starting around 1940, transforming the town into a hotbed of Modernism. Lee’s axially symmetrical, one-story structure, completed in 1956 and published in RECORD as part of a collection of rectangular houses, featured a large open space, about 30 feet square, which contained a central fireplace, a living room, and a compact island kitchen. This main room had a perimeter clerestory and two all-glass exterior walls, on the north and south, providing views of the wooded 2-acre property. Bedrooms, two each on the east and west, flanked the main space, with a veranda and a generous overhanging roof surrounding the house on all four sides.
The current owners, a finance executive and a lighting designer, bought the property from Lee in 1990. Soon afterwards they commissioned New York City-based Toshiko Mori to renovate the house. Mori, who has since renovated or added onto several buildings by some of Modernism’s giants, made subtle but significant alterations that included raising the central roof by about 18 inches, thereby enlarging the clerestory, and replacing deteriorated wood columns with stainless steel. The changes helped make the already elegant structure seem even more delicate and graceful. Even Lee, who now lives in another house he designed a few miles away, approves. “It was one of the most sensitive remodelings in New Canaan,” he says.
Glass/Wood House, New Canaan, Connecticut, by Kengo Kuma & Associates,
via: Architectural Record
Years ago, when the owner and his young daughter explored the remote hills surrounding their Silicon Valley home, they discovered an idyllic setting below a ridge, under a grove of large California live oaks. They first thought the setting would be perfect for a tree house, but the idea later evolved into the Tea Houses, places where one could retreat into nature. There are three, each with its own purpose: meditation, sleeping and ‘visioning’ or creative thinking.
Each tea house is designed as a transparent steel and glass pavilion, hovering like a lantern over the natural landscape. Cast-in-place concrete core elements anchor the pavilions, supporting steel channel rim joists which cantilever beyond the cores to support the floor and roof planes. With its minimal footprint, the design treads lightly on the land, minimizing grading and preserving the delicate root systems of the native oaks.
Tea Houses, Silicon Valley, California, by Swatt Miers Architects
A residential building located halfway up a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Thick clumps of trees that grow along the slope of the land surrounding the house cast a series of organic silhouettes that make the slope seem to come alive. We decided that the appropriate form to build would be as low-lying as possible, while also allowing the architecture to become embedded in the surrounding landscape according to the contours of the terrain. This would allow us to minimize the impact of the building on its environment. The design of the walls plays an important role in creating the overall sense of presence that a building projects. As such, we also tried to prevent the walls of this house from becoming surfaces that would obstruct or impede movement and sight.
Glass and screens along the enclosed perimeter of the house gives the second floor of this residence a certain transparency. Slender, deep-set eaves cast deep shadows on the facade of the building, softening the impact of the building’s physical presence in relation to its environment. The various components of the building were structured in order to allow the inhabitants to enjoy a different view of the outside on each level. The first floor features a stone floor and concrete walls finished with plaster, while the Japanese paper screens fitted inside the glass reflect the shadows of plants and trees. The hard-edged surfaces and finishes coexist with the soft, muted tones of the Japanese paper.
The second storey, in contrast, features an open-plan living space, the entirety of which can be opened up towards the ocean. A series of wide eaves stand between the outside of the house and the interior, which is articulated into smaller sections by a row of pillars. Going down the staircase-shaped terrace allows one to gradually draw closer to the outdoor landscape. The section that divides the two different elevations on this floor provides seating throughout, functioning as a unique Japanese-style verandah (engawa). A steel-reinforced concrete structure was used for the second floor, and a Vierendeel bridge structure allowed us to float a large, thin roof on top. The pillars consist of square cylindrical poles (measuring 75mm across) made of solid iron arranged in a densely packed formation using wooden modules (900 x 1800mm). By creating several areas of low-level rigidity, we were able to do away with the need for braces.
To create a serene family sanctuary that harmoniously connects inhabitants with the surrounding natural environment, while combining the best sustainable, eco- friendly materials and energy efficient technologies with minimalist architectural design.
Ice House, Reykjavik, Iceland, by Minarc, Photography © Torfi Agnarsson