The X-House sits atop a steep hill in Cabrils, Barcelona, with impressive views over a valley. Fashioned in the shape of its namesake, albeit in giant concrete form, the house is the handiwork of young Mexico City and Barcelona-based architects, Cadaval & Sola-Morales, known for bold, formal gestures and modern lines.
These specifications were met by the ‘X’ shape of the 300 sq.m. concrete and glass structure, through the construction of four triangular recesses, and in doing so, avoiding the destruction of the pine tree at street level and providing simultaneous views of both the sea and the mountains from the lower level. The street level entrance leads into the garage and a private space which accommodates the Master bedroom suite. The public spaces are on the lower level, a fantastic area with double height living room and kitchen combined. The details of glass parapets on the roof and terraces ensure an uninterrupted view from all parts of the home.
- X-House is sited lower than the street, minimizing its public presence and keeping existing views in tact. Its unusual form is not simply gestural – the splayed sides allow light to penetrate the back of the building and the angled frontage maximizes the splendid views.
- The 2-story residence was designed around several site restraints and desires of the homeowners like wanting to maximize the views of the sea and the mountains on opposite sides, needing access to the house from the street, and saving a pine tree that was at the top of the lot.
- The two-storey residence is based on a simple rectilinear form but features four triangular recesses that create the X-shaped plan. One of these recesses allows the structure to avoid a nearby tree, while two others provide windows that avoid overlooking neighbouring houses and the fourth lengthens the glazed facade to offer a wider view of the surrounding landscape.
On the roof terrace, for example, the architects have installed a glass parapet, thus avoiding even the slightest visual annoyance of a handrail. Even the garage (the true test of a house and the first room you enter) has floor-to-ceiling windows – rather than being dark and utilitarian – while the living room is double height to maximize the outlook. Tall mullions give rhythm and provide a discreet sense of enclosure in a space dominated by its exterior.
“The form is not a priori, but an effort to give a unitary response that satisfies each of the questions that rose up in the design process,” explains Cadaval & Solà-Morales.
Cadaval & Solà-Morales:
The X House project aims to solve by the definition of a system, language, or even through a unique form, a number of inquiries that rise up when we read the specific given site: how to protect and give protagonism to an impressive pine, that is located on the top of the site, and that makes access and approximation to the house extremely complex from the street; how to avoid deciding between the views to the sea and those to the mountains, and allow both visions in opposite directions; how to neutralize through form the presence of the contiguous constructions, to build up a fake isolation that denies the neighbours; how to double the main views, permitting quality frontal views from the front and the rear of the house; how to resolve so many a priories with a simple movement that answers to all of the previous aims without prioritizing nor explicitly formulating a response to any of them. The form, a unique form, is the result of a long process of search of individual answers to each of those challenges; thus, the form is not an a priori, but an effort to give a unitary response that satisfies each of the questions rose up in the design process.
The X House is also a constructive exploration: a technique regularly used for the infrastructural construction such as bridges and tunnels, is here developed to meet the architectural scale, aiming to incorporate efficiency, and reduction of costs to the construction. The use of a mixed technique based on the application of a high-density concrete allows projecting the material at a high pressure to a single-sided formwork, and to acquire high structural resistance in extremely short periods of time. Thus, it is possible to project continuous 6m high walls without the need to use a two-sided formwork (which would be the regular construction procedure). The house is therefore a living expression of the specific technique, and accumulates in its skin the diverse and continuous knowledge acquired within the process of construction.
The house is located on the upper part of a hill in Cabrils, in the outskirts of Barcelona. The site, with remarkable views and an important slope, is accessed from a single street located at the top of the site. The location of the house within the site responds to the aim to minimize excavation and optimize, within possible, the use of the non-occupied land. The access to the house is two meters depressed from the street, and the project searches to empathise through the use of blank walls the desire to be anchored in the site and to disappear from the street; the project clearly prioritizes the façades and views overseeing the valley.
The house has two floors. The top floor, beyond incorporating a parking and allowing the access to the house, is conceived as a private suite of the owners: main room, with dresser and washroom / toilet, and spacious studio. In the lower floor there is a clear distinction between the front and the rear of the house; the front part has a totally open and public nature, build up with a living area in a double high space next to a kitchen-dining room articulated around a significant marble table, 8m long. The rear part of the lower floor holds the rooms and service areas, which through the patios are given direct and protected views to the valley, the sea and the mountain.
Mainly, the project of the X House uses form to qualify spaces of very different nature and provide them with an individual character, always incorporating landscape as a main actor. Beyond the effective spatial arrangement at the front of the house, the views are the protagonist in each space. And learning from Dan Graham’s reflections, the image of the sea is always present when observing the mountain, and the mountain appears as a reflection when looking at the sea: a perceptive quality that enriches the experience of the house.
Project name: X-House
Location: Cabrils, Barcelona, Spain
Coordinates: 41.536746, 2.372822
- Type By Characteristic: Modern House
- Type By Site: Mountain House
- Type By Size: Medium House – (201 sqm – 450 sqm)
- Type By Structural: Concrete House
Project Area: 300 sqm
Project Year: 2009
Construction Year: 2012
Completion Year: 2012
Client / Owner / Developer: Private
Architects: Cadaval & Solà-Morales – Avenir # 1 ppal 1a Barcelona 08006, Spain
Architect In Charge: Eduardo Cadaval & Clara Solà-Morales
Collaborators: Bruno Pereira, Pamela Diaz De Leon, Daniela Tramontozzi, Manuel Tojal
Building Engineering: Joaquin Pelaez
Structural Engineering: Carles Gelpi
Construction Company: TOPCRET Constructions
Text Description: © Courtesy of Cadaval & Solà-Morales
Images: © Cadaval & Solà-Morales, Sandra Pereznieto, Santiago Garces, Iwan Baan