By Jody McCutcheon
Nothing says rustic like a stone building. There’s something quaint and beautiful about walls built with stones of uneven size, with organic colours and irregular shapes fitting right into a rugged countryside. Thus is the beauty of the 322m2, award-winning, single-family Extremadura House designed by Ábaton and built on a five-hectare lot in the Spanish province of Cáceres. Minimalist, eco-chic interior design was provided by Ábaton and Batavia.
Constructed in 2010, the off-grid home was the winner of the 2013 Architizer A+ Award for Architecture and Sustainability and is still cited as an example of excellence in off-grid architecture.
The initial goal was to repurpose an abandoned stable into a family home through renovations that fit with the local environment, but since the original building was mostly unsalvageable, the Extremadura Countryside Estate ended up being built largely from scratch. Many of the interior supporting walls were taken down and replaced with metal columns, creating an open concept interior dominated by a double-height living room running the length of building.
So remote that it couldn’t rely on nearby local water and electricity grids, the house is a low-energy building of necessity, exploiting natural water and solar sources for its energy needs. Its self-sufficiency is accomplished through nearly invisible photovoltaics (and accompanying storage batteries) and hydropower, from two small turbines powered by stream water. The tendency is to use hydro in the winter and solar in the summer.
The two streams flowing through the property (and house!) provide fresh water for both drinking and bathing. The stream water also feeds a swimming pool to serve irrigation purposes, as well as a fountain located in the building’s interior courtyard, filling the courtyard with the peaceful, “murmuring sounds” of running water.
The building’s original orientation exposes the elongated southern façade to sloping terrain, providing solar exposure and generating solar heat gain, which is especially comforting during winter. Large windows connect the interior and exterior and let in plenty of sunlight, while wooden shutters close over the windows at night, trapping the daily heat gain. During summer months, a wide roof overhang creates a natural cooling system by keeping sunlight out of the building interior.
Not only is Extremadura energy-efficient, it’s also constructed with eco-friendly materials, mainly local stone and wood. Besides cement, the house is built from local recycled stone and repurposed, weather-beaten wood. Limestone floors add another touch of organic elegance.
Ábaton’s architects have proven here that you can venture into the countryside and enjoy full-on modernist luxury without sacrificing the simplicity of energy-efficient, rustic living.
All images: Ábaton and Belén Imaz