GilBartolomé Architects was founded in 2007 by Pablo Gil and Jaime Bartolomé with the aim of creating beautiful and innovative architecture while implementing advanced design methods and technologies. Before starting their own firm in Spain, both architects worked for Pritzker Prize Laureates, Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers while living in London. Their design methodology relies on testing and evolving ideas with the client through models, experiments and prototypes.
The brief for Casa Del Ancantilado was to place it on a hill with sweeping views over the Mediterranean Sea. Nestled in the hills of Salobreña in Spain, at an inclination of 42 degrees, the particular plot of land was just as difficult to navigate as it is breathtaking. The task was to integrate the house within the magnificent landscape surrounding it, and to direct the living spaces towards the sea.
Gaudiesque, the form of the house and its metallic roof produce a calculated aesthetic ambiguity between the natural and the supernatural, seeming like the waves of the sea when seen from above, and dragon scales, when seen from below. The house has been developed on two floors. The first includes a large terraced living area, following the slope of the mountain, connected to a cantilevered terrace with a swimming pool. The second floor is home to bedrooms that all look out over the roof.
The living spaces are covered by a curved double shell of reinforced concrete which plays with the geometry of the ground while framing the views and orienting airflow from the sea. This shell is held on the retaining walls that are 14.5 metres apart from each other, with no other internal supports, columns or walls. This congregational space of the house, which has been organised into designated ‘islands’ of activity, can also become a stage and auditorium for 70 people. Handy for hosting parties! The space is completely open to the landscape and has an ancillary terrace separated by a movable glass facade.
The construction of this clifftop house relied heavily on craftsmanship and local labor. The house was built during a financial crisis in Spain. Given this socio-economic climate, the architects decided to avoid machine-made industrial building systems and to develop a structure that could depend on several hours of human labour. The most complex elements of the house were the best route to this approach.
The reinforced concrete structure of the roof has been based upon a manually executed metal formwork. The tiles that cover the roof have been fabricated and laid by hand. The bespoke interior furniture is all designed through digital software, but manufactured by hand on site using the ancient method of "measuring from plans".
These structural elements were also economically feasible thanks to technical innovations. The roof was produced through a handcrafted formwork system developed on a patent by a local engineer Dr. Manuel Rojas. It uses a very efficient deformable metal mesh which can be manufactured at a much lower cost than commonly used timber or steel formworks. The finished roof surface is composed of zinc tiles, or ‘scales’, whose manual production costs are comparatively lower than those of prefabricated systems.
Casa Del Acantilado is a matter of illusion, talent and stubborn commitment to an idea between all parties. Clearly, it has paid off!
GilBartolomé ADW; gilbartolome.com