HOUSE for a PATAPHYSICIAN FAMILY: An exploration of collaborative design
This is a house designed for a significant artist in the Spanish pataphysical scene. Pataphysics is an artistic discipline that refuses definition, placing itself beyond metaphysics, and usually referred as the science of exceptions or the discipline of imaginary solutions.
The client, with a very particular way of living, requested us for the remodeling of an old house in his city, Burriana, Spain. The old house, coming from his family heritage, was on the opposite pole of an exceptional situation—in a common street, with a very weak identity, and with dimensional constraints that made any interesting spatial organization rather difficult. Paradoxically the house was code-protected by the City Hall as part of the historic downtown neighborhood, and we were obliged to maintain the original facade, the original height of the existing building and the sloping roof facing the street. The challenge was how to build the strong identity requested by the client while conserving the anodyne existing architecture protected by law.
In our first visit to the site, we realized that the adjoining site was a tiny abandoned garage that would provide us with the possibility of accommodating the program better and getting some extra space for converting the housing typology into a patio house. Patio houses are extremely common in the Spanish fabrics, as part of the Moorish urbanism where houses are mostly blind to the very tight streets and receive light and ventilation from interior courtyards. Following my suggestion, the clients acquired the adjoining plot, and we started to work together.
The domestic program was based on a family with two kids, with a culture of entertaining guests at home, so it had to accommodate three bedrooms and another one with a different privacy for the guests. On top of this basic condition, the family listed all their particular wishes—a small garden and a sewing workshop for the mother, a nice green terrace with a swimming pool were the desires expressed by the kids, and a theater where artistic events could be hosted as part of the pataphysician father’s dreams. To accommodate all these in a low budget seemed impossible.
We worked accommodating all the proposed program trying to keep as much as possible of the existing as a way to lower the projected cost. The work was basically done in plan through a disposition of a long side courtyard where the house will open through big glass walls, and in section through the adaptation of the different levels for accommodating the requested programs. The image of the house tried to reconcile the value of the existing (painting in red the most significant elements of the old facade), with unmistakable contemporary elements such as the nylon mesh that covers the entire facade providing security for the children and also serving as support for the stage background in the terrace. The requested sloping roof facing the streets was accomplished by the disposition of the small theater auditorium.
After two years working together through a series of design feedback loop, the clients got their new house, where all their expectations were accomplished. They started occupying the house as the definitive act of architecture (as the Smithsons said). Their particular way of living matched precisely the spaces of the house owing to the fact that they were projected from their own particular interests.
This project stands as a proof of the possibility of reconciliation between people’s demands and our responsibilities as architects with our discipline and with the common physical and aesthetic welfare. The house also works as a critical artifact showing that the accomplishment of the codes could be done critically, which means dismissing the obsolete intention of the perpetuation of meaningless architecture with only the argument of its antiquity.
( A Pataphysician garage door...)