Al-Ándalus 2.0

Sunday 28 Oct 2012

Reinterpretation of traditional Arabic architecture using new technologies and modern materials.

The original house is part of a neighborhood in Madrid first developed as an enclave for notable artists and writers at the turn of the 20th century. The use of regional styles reflects the tendencies and tastes of that era and the influence of Moorish culture on Spanish architecture. Inspired by the courtyards at the Alhambra, a simple concept developed for a continuous public space defined by its surrounding rooms.

The decision to focus the design to the interior eliminated the need for unnecessary alterations at the façade addressing the local code requirements for its preservation. The new public space unifies the house and serves as an internal courtyard (wast-al-dar).

To begin, a large floor opening was introduced connecting the original dark semi-basement to the floor above. Multiple stairs were replaced by one principal stair with an operable skylight to serve as light well and natural ventilation core. The site was partially excavated for a new formal entry at the lower level and to provide direct access to the exterior garden. The garden was planted with fruit trees and seasonal vegetation to reflect the time of year with flowers and changing colors. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter to permit natural heat gain in the building. A new structure at the rear of the house accommodates a sunken garage and a swimming-tide-pool. Ivy at the perimeter retaining walls will eventually obscure the property’s constructed borders.

The combination of vegetation, pool, and sprinklers contributes to a humid microclimate and naturally cools the building during the dry summer months. The boundaries of the new wast-al-dar are adorned by a custom milled surface illustrating its visual and programmatic continuity. Working with a computational design artist, a hexagonal pattern was designed simulating traditional Arabic motifs (the hexagon represents heaven). The hexagons vary in size and in depth and sometimes perforate the surface communicating visually and acoustically with the other side. The pattern is continuous and uninterrupted even when encountering windows and doors varying only in porosity or density to reflect the program of adjacent rooms or exterior beyond.

Dramatic displays of light and shadow are achieved alternating between white acrylic polymer solid surfaces, solid oak, and painted MDF panels. Parametric controls facilitated the desired permeability of different local conditions (e.g. when more light can enter and when greater privacy is needed). Once the design was finalised the same computer script that helped develop the pattern provided the digital information needed by the fabricator’s CNC machine for production. The result is a reinterpretation of traditional Arabic architecture using new technologies and modern materials.

Text: Moremas

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