Architectural Dialogues: casa de Retiro Espiritual Meets Volvo XC70 | The Plan
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Architectural Dialogues: casa de Retiro Espiritual Meets Volvo XC70

Architectural Dialogues: casa de Retiro Espiritual Meets Volvo XC70
By Nicola Leonardi -

Design today knows no boundaries: whatever is produced has to be imagined, drawn, projected in order to become real. The process acompanying the creation of architecture is not so different from industrial design. Designing a new car, for instance, figures as one of the trickiest, most intriguing moments. We decided to pick up the challenge ourselves and cross a car with a house. Naturally we chose two rather special protagonists.
A house tucked away in the Andalusian outback; a car of the very latest vintage: two seemingly opposite worlds coming together. But in the design statement they make, the two objects may be closer than they appear.
The Casa de Retiro Espiritual is a masterpiece by Emilio Ambasz, one of the most complex, sophisticated architects around on the world scene. His utter disregard for quantity of output allows us time to digest any architectural tour de force he may care to make.
A river flows through virgin countryside below a hill; on top of the hill rises a sculptural beacon of a house. Two white walls shimmering under the Andalusian sun form a perfect right-angle that seems to enfold and announce the building from afar. On closer inspection, one realizes the sleight of hand: the two walls are stage-sets, empty inside, generating an other-worldly architecture of line. Two staircases climb the white walls on the inside, their steps tapping out a silent rhythm in duet with the handrail which runs up in a continuous wave gouged into the masonry. Up one goes to the mirador, a tiny wooden balcony, all arabesque carving to heighten and contrast with the pure lines and colour of the walls. The mirador commands a breath-taking view stretching across tracts of Andalusian landscape. It is easy to imagine time ticking past in that boundless expanse.
As in the best Ambasz creations, dreamlike impossibility of design unexpectedly delivers a reality: in this case, an underground house. A flight of steps lead down from the...

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