Hide and seek: House E+M in Sant Cugat near Barcelona
Client: Privat, Miriam + Eduard
Architect: Josep Ferrando Architecture
Location: Carrer Torre 8, Sant Cugat (ES)
In a corner of the town square of Sant Cugat, right next to the mediaeval monastery, House E+M is a building that is easily overlooked. In the alteration measures its historic façade – hidden behind strings of cable and a layer of dirt – was left practically unchanged and along with its dark-framed doorway is the only thing left standing of the building that previously existed at the spot. The rest was gutted. As a result, passing through the old door now leads into an entrance hall delineated by concrete blocks, and from there into the living space. This is linked by a central atrium to the other storeys, and forms the new heart of the building.
The living area is flanked on one side by a separating wall for a system of staircases, and on the other by an enclosure for storage and technical installations, thus resulting in three upright layers on the horizontal plane. On the vertical plane Ferrando has engineered a storey-connecting void into which several rooms are inserted, while his narrow staircase system light-heartedly provides a double connection between the ground floor and the basement level with its views out onto the garden on the rear side of the building.
The ground floor inclines gently from the kitchen to the garden, resulting in a slightly lowered dining area and thus ensuring that the kitchen also has a view out to the garden. In the upper storeys the atrium is delineated by three box-like volumes containing the bathroom, bedroom and study, respectively. These shed-shaped rooms, each closed off from the atrium, lead over to a balcony, the main bedroom and a roof terrace.
In contrast to the staircase in concrete and the concrete of a wall practically covered in a system of timber shelving, the remaining surfaces are almost completely clad in light-coloured wooden panels. The walls and ceilings lead over seamlessly into the wall with its shelving, making the wooden structure seem like a single piece of furniture running the length of the building between the outer concrete walls. The wall enclosing the staircase is in the colour of concrete grey and features window-like apertures, lending it the effect of a street façade. The unplastered concrete block masonry wall facing onto the garden has large, deep-set wooden windows with hinged shutters.
Josep Ferrando Architecture has managed to turn the project restrictions to best advantage, preserving just enough of the existing building to maintain the identity of the place while ensuring maximum freedom for alterations. The spatial constraints have inspired a well-devised system of inner organisation while the tight budget has motivated a precise choice of materials and construction methods. What a shame the building is so easily overlooked.