Conversion of two houses, Jaén
Conversion of two houses
JAÉN (ES) - Brijuni Arquitectos bring poetry to daily living.
These two dwellings stand in the historical centre of Jaén, a small city of about 115,000 inhabitants in Andalusia, in southern Spain. Brijuni Arquitectos were asked to convert a dilapidated house into modern dwellings, while respecting the traditional character of the original building, which is typical of the Spanish Mediterranean area, being based on the neighbourhood – a community where everyone knows everyone, and private life becomes public and extrovert.
The architects also had to adhere to strict building regulations governing the historical city centre; they could not alter the street facades and had to preserve the small patio between the two houses, which is used as a private-public space and establishes a direct relationship between both neighbours. In addition, the houses sit on a narrow plot between other existing buildings, so there was not too much room to manoeuvre. The assignment was all about using the available space to the maximum and preserving some traditional features, like the patio, to comply with urban legislation.
Each house has two floors plus a roof terrace with views of the cathedral and the castle. The organization of the programme is similar in both houses: the open-plan ground floor contains the living room, kitchen and dining room; the second floor contains two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The patio, a common feature of traditional Spanish houses, is a key element in the design. All spaces have a strong relation with this outdoor space through the new large windows. First of all, the architects saw the patio as a tool to improve the cross ventilation of the houses, using every available facade surface for ventilation. Secondly, they tried to establish a stronger relationship between the inhabitants, connecting the two houses physically and visually. Finally, they saw it as a way of enhancing daylighting on this side of the houses, and indirect heating by the sun during winter.
In order to save as much space as possible, the architects placed the stairs as a continuous element behind the main facade. On the one hand, these stairs, made out of thin folded steel plates, create a sense of lightness. On the other hand, they highlight the mobility and fluidity of the interior. The architects emphasized this by painting the stairs in the same bright colour as the floor, creating a continuity of space between upstairs and downstairs.
Colour is very important in the traditional architecture of Andalusia. Most houses were painted white inside and out in conformity with an ancient law stipulating that houses be whitewashed for reasons of hygiene and thermal comfort. Nowadays, however, houses are painted white on the outside only, in order to preserve the visual unity of the historical city centre. Here the use of bright colours indoors has a different meaning. It gives an new, fresh, amusing look to the inside of the house and is also used to highlight ordinary structural elements such as the stairs or pillars, giving these 'unavoidable' elements added importance rather than trying to hide them.
With this, their first realized project, Madrid-based Brijuni Arquitectos demonstrate their ability to open the doors of a traditional house to a modern lifestyle while preserving what is important. This is an optimistic project, characteristic of a new generation of architects unafraid to break away from established building traditions, in this case relating to projects in historical city centres. This example should be a role model for new projects in Andalusia's historical cities.
January | 2011 | Spain | Gonzalo Herrero Delicado & Maria José Marcos