Nogal House | Ávila, Spain | 2022
[Raúl Almenara]

History of creation. Conversion of an old rural orchard in a village in Ávila, into a contemporary designed home: Nogal is a single-family dwelling designed with the appearance of a giant rock, an enormous inert being that, nevertheless, houses life. This genuine concept develops under the shade and environment of an imposing walnut tree, the epicenter and soul of the project.

Search for inspiration. Of Persian origin, with deep roots, and dense and elongated shadows. With robust wood and majestic bearing. Probably the walnut tree is one of the trees whose presence cannot go unnoticed, it is one of the kings of nature. Its fruit (the walnut), its silhouette, and, in short, its marked characteristics make it a reference tree for its delicacy: it does not withstand strong frosts, nor very high temperatures, as well as a minimum of rainfall, must be guaranteed for its growth to be adequate and harmonious. This makes finding a walnut tree with these characteristics something truly exceptional.

In search of a close relationship with nature, and in an act of enhancing the value of this century-old walnut tree, a stony character home has been built, reminiscent of those rocks in the landscape, projected around this figure. Although we will see all the characteristics of the building, we can never speak of it without being aware of what the soul of the project is, in which nature and artifice, sustainability, art, and architecture are more intertwined than ever.

But this would not be the only element that would catch the attention of nature in the province of Ávila. In the early train trips to the town, a strong contrast was observed in the plains between a flatter and barren terrain and some granite rocks of quasi-human scale that supported themselves as sculptures on it.

Nature of design. The project is located in full connection with nature, in an old orchard surrounded by a wall of granite stones, where a walnut tree always reigned. It starts from a position of respect for the​​se two elements, the tree, and the wall, to end up blending in with the environment. The project is conceived as a large granite rock from the Ávila mountain range, which deforms around the walnut tree, to which it pays tribute. It thus becomes a large curved solid of stony character, it’s interior being sculpted in the same stone to house the spaces of domestic life.

The house, linked to the landscape, would be just another stone, typical of the Ávila mountain landscapes. Hence the decision on the finish of the facade: a large wall of granite that bets on the condition of solidity over permeability. A solution that is taken to the extreme, covering even the access doors of the house with this material. The roof is also covered with the same material, in order to give continuity to the volume, generating the concept of a solid.

The roof takes up the vernacular language typical of the area, sloping only on one side, sculpting the solid on its upper face, facetted both on the outside and the inside, creating a large sloping roof.

The house has three large openings to nature, creating a home full of light; a first opening around which the house turns with views of the garden – a walnut tree. It is a large curved glass of great dimensions, a single piece, and curved specifically and artisanally for the house. A second opening to the frontal landscape, with views of the transhumance of the area. The third large opening consists of numerous windows and is a gaze at the sky, at the stars. It connects the bedrooms with the sky, making it possible to sleep while looking at the stars. The rest of the facade is completely opaque, preventing the relationship of the house with the urban environment, opting for a strategic connection with nature.

Returning to the openings, a great value of the project is observed in the first one. The generous curved glass curves around the walnut tree. This opening contains a completely new element in the history of architecture, a large table of stony characters that cross this large glass. Starting its journey in the dining room and ending it in the garden under the shade of the walnut tree. A clear gesture of the connection of the domestic interior with nature. It is the soul of this design, created with the aim of supporting activities both inside and outside the house, facilitating a way of life in continuous contact with nature.

Upon entering the house, we find in front of us the third great opening we spoke of, the interior courtyard, which tells us that this work was born to be enjoyed in the company of natural elements. The courtyard is completely permeable, the glass that protects it moves to communicate completely with the rest of the rooms in the house. And around this interior courtyard, the program of the house is divided: public on the left and private on the right.

Following the public route of any visitor, we will find the large double-height room with a sloping roof: a room that hosts the functions of the dining room, kitchen, living room, and distributor, featuring a large table. It is followed by the winter living room on a level below this one, 34 cm lower. It is presided over by a fireplace around which two designer armchairs are placed to enjoy the landscape we observe through the glass of the second opening while listening to the crackling of the great fireplace. In this place the ceiling is much lower, creating a more welcoming atmosphere.

If we reverse the direction of the route, we will find the rooms, located on two upper levels of the house. Something strategically designed to observe the sky, the stars at night. “Living under the shelter of a walnut tree is how I understand the experience in this house

The detail. The project mainly works with the stony condition. From the first phase, the house bets on this decision, structurally built in concrete, the stone of the 21st century. The stairs are made of compacted river pebbles from the Abulense and making it a sculptural piece. The facade, roof, bathrooms and kitchen coverings, doors, and even the tables bet on this materiality.

The rest of the solutions are contemplated around the other two secondary materials: glass and metal, avoiding wood to avoid competing with the material characteristics of the Walnut tree. This is the case with the large glasses that fill the house with light and especially the large curved glass made specifically for the house and crossed by the large table. In metal, we will find the stainless steel cable railings anchored to the floor and ceiling, generating the effect of a lattice close to the shadows of a tree. “Understanding the liquid character of 21st-century architecture, in which construction can be deformed to bet on a life in contact with nature.”Text description by the architects.

Photography by: Raúl Almenara
Area: 140 m²