Glass Box on a Concrete Platform Gazes Out at Madrid
Le Corbusier, Johnson and van der Rohe would all recognize some elements of their own work in this stark piece of domestic modern minimalism – a steel-framed glass box atop a poured-in-place concrete base. However, this unique reinterpretation of high-modernist ideas by Alberto Campo Baeza goes beyond to embody a clever series of opposites in terms of everything from its construction to the way people within it experience its spaces.
Featuring floor-to-ceiling transparent glazing, the box on top serves as an open-plane living room area with only a thin wall of glass and a few white-painted posts between residents and the surrounding views.
The lower volume is nearly the opposite: completely enclosed on all sides save for a few small openings. Ultimately, this is the private, safe and secure counterpoint to the wide-open (nearly exterior) room above.
Anyone with an eye for basic architectural engineering will also notice that this outwardly simple structure is a very clear illustration of the two fundamental ways of thinking about building construction: steretomic (or stereometric) and tectonic – the former represented by the closed stacked-and-solid concrete base and the later by the open frame-and-infill space above.
More about the De Blas House by Alberto Campo Baeza
“This house is a response to its location: on the top of a hill, southwest of Madrid, with splendid views of the mountains to the north. A platform was created to settle upon: a concrete box the podium on which a transparent glass box was placed, delicately covered with a light and simple structure of white-painted steel. The concrete box, rooted to the earth, houses the program with a clear schematic distribution: a service strip to the back and the served areas to the front. Inside, square windows are opened, framing the landscape as a distant view.”
“The glass box on top of the platform is a lookout-point, to which one rises from within the house. From this vantage point, the landscape is underlined so that it appears closer. The glass box, without carpentry under the metal structure, extends almost to the edge of the northern facade and is setback on the southern facade to provide shade. Below, a “cave” is a space for refuge. Above, the cabin, a display case, is a space for contemplating nature. The double symmetry in the composition of the columns lends the house a still and serene character.”