Spanish home’s redesign creates crannies within nooks inside spaces

Kitchen

It’s not so much a residence of rooms as it is a home filled with nooks, crannies and modern spaces for living and working.

J House — in the popular, central La Latina neighbourhood of Madrid, Spain — challenges and provokes our understanding of what a home is. Simply answered: it is a home within a home.

Architects were asked to refurbish the original, 1,500-square-foot loft, but say the renovation was actually closer in nature to a new construction. “It’s more like building a single-family home than an interior rehabilitation,” said architect Jorge Alonso Albendea, with Zooco Estudio in Spain.

The plan was to generate 10 horizontal structures, all in different heights and each with a different function. As well, the spaces above and beneath the 10 structures — depending on the height — each had a purpose. And, in the end, the various levels that were created actually worked as furniture.

The home’s lower level includes a bedroom with a private ensuite bathroom, the main bathroom and a semi-open and versatile living area that can be converted into another room in the future. The kitchen is connected to the dining room and living room. Next to the kitchen is an office area and a common bathroom.

On the upper level, there is another bedroom and a study area connected by a corridor that serves as a library and gallery.

Completed in 2019, J House took about 18 months to design and build.

We asked architect Jorge Alonso Albendea a few questions about his unique design:

What was the inspiration for the home? What was it before — and what was the plan to update it?

It was inspired by Japanese architecture. We wanted a minimal esthetic and the chance to save space in height.

The structure is an old, brick factory from the end of the 20th century that was converted into a loft-style apartment building. The house has load-bearing brick wall, a structure of wooden pillars and an original Catalan vault ceiling (curves created by laying bricks lengthwise along parallel wooden beams).

What different elements were used?

There are five elements. There is a perimetric load-bearing wall made of clinker bricks (distorted, over-fired bricks) which are painted white. Pine wood that was already there makes up a major part of the flooring and some of the project’s enclosures.

There is a white metallic structure, that sometimes rests on the floor and other times hangs from the ceiling. There are also different glass surfaces with differing opacity.

And there is the waxed concrete, a continuous surface with no joints in the humid surfaces like the kitchen and bathroom floors, the sinks or the bathtub.

How did you create privacy with the open and varied spaces?

There are different grades of privacy. The structure design shows what has to be seen and hides what has to be hidden. By using transparent or opaque glass — depending on the space — we can provide enclosure of the structure.

What challenges were there in building the home?

The project consists of building a house inside of a house, which means it’s more like building a single-family home than an interior rehabilitation. This is because it has its own structure, enclosures and installations. The design was quite laborious because each space was well thought-out — and the client was very demanding.

How will the pandemic will affect your architecture in the future?

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The pandemic will affect society as a whole, therefore it will affect also architecture as an essential part of it. Regarding buildings and public spaces, it is obvious we will change the way of using them and consequently projecting them.

Moving to private spaces, I do not think that they will change so much in their morphology and use. Maybe an entrance space will be included, but I do not think much more.

What I do think is that the quality of the spaces, the lighting and ventilation will start to be valued more since we will spend more time at home. These are aspects that architects and some clients highly value, but not everyone.

Georgie Binks is a Toronto-based writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Reach her at [email protected]

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