Iconic in both design and construction, the large Hemeroscopium House in Las Rozas, a town just outside Madrid, is a statement by architect Antón García-Abril and his Ensamble practice on how large structural components like concrete and steel beams - usually employed for bridges or viaducts - can be turned to residential use.
After a lengthy design phase, the prefabricated pieces of the building were rapidly fitted together on site to create this unusual detached family home that stands as a symbol of what can be done with components out of context.
Construction started with the laying of the first upside down A-pillar supporting the first beam. It continued in an upwardly spiralling sequence of seven huge structural components: concrete beams (three 2.65 m high, more than 21 m long double T beams weighing between 53 and 59 tons; two, 1.1 m high, 21 m long U-beams weighing 38-40 tons), and two Vierendel and Warren steel beams. The heavyweight components contrast with the absolute transparency of the other perimeter walls and the rigorously simple layout of the interior.
What mediates the massive outer structural components and the geometric interior spaces is a dynamic tension that balances gravity and fragility. While the building leaves its distinctive mark on the landscape, it also draws the sweeping countryside and natural sunlight inward through the transparent facades. The name Hemeroscopium, or the place where the sun sets, is a clear reference to this preoccupation with transparency and light.
This is a phantasmagorical project bringing together distinct opposites, an exuberantly inventive exercise in producing memorable yet recognisable forms.
The upside down concrete U beam, filled with water, reflects light like a long cantilevered reflective pool, echoing the real ground-level swimming pool set within the building’s perimeter. It is all part of a subtle play in which beam becomes pool, becomes perimeter, comes wall.
The “play-construction” spirals to its culmination, an unrendered 20-ton granite stone balanced on the top of the building. It is here that all the dynamic tensions come to a climax. By the same token, the division of the floor plan into two parts and the hollow of the patio further underline how the house is an assembly of separate structural pieces.