The mountain makes the house | From the shooter to the city

Most rehabilitated by Josep Lluís Mateo in La Garrotxa (Girona).
Most rehabilitated by Josep Lluís Mateo in La Garrotxa (Girona).Adrià Goula

Mas —The name that in Catalonia, Valencia and in part of Aragon receive agricultural holdings, their housing and neighboring farmhouses — derives from Latin mansus what does it mean stay. Just that, staying for three centuries in the landscape is what made this house more renovated than rescued by the studio of the architect Josep Lluís Mateo.

The house is not in the mountain, part of it. It does not start from it, it is not even cemented between stones and mud, it is hooked to the mountain, laterally and literally: the rear facade is the mountain itself. Thus, the inner spine that forms the backbone of the Vilà family’s old home is the face of the mountain: a wall of stone and earth. This coexistence between the most primitive and the most abstract —the new intervention— served to update a but of the seventeenth century that had been destroyed when, after losing the roof, the rain ended up disintegrating the original wooden structure.

The wall, which is the mountain itself, inside the house.
The wall, which is the mountain itself, inside the house.Adrià Goula

The most striking thing about the house today is not its views —that reach as far as France and Mount Canigó— nor even the volume —exact to the original and plastered with Roman lime “so that it acquires a toasted tone with the passage of time” – . What is striking about this domestic rescue is that a decision that roots the house is both a sample of the knowledge of the past and an indicator of a future path: to use the land in favor of architecture. Build from what the place indicates.

Mateo explains by phone that this is “the house of a consort architect, let it be clear, I renovated it but it is my wife’s home.” She inherited it, in the Vall de Bianya, the ruin of what had been an old forest estate that lived by selling firewood “until butane appeared”.

What was fascinating for the architect was to preserve not only the casing, the volume of the house, but – and above all – the relationship with the land. That is why he respected what, before the rains, had happened in there: it revealed the ground itself, “an irregular and fascinating wall of historical stones”, a spine that, in reality, is the mountain itself.

Coexistence between the new intervention and the presence of the mountain.
Coexistence between the new intervention and the presence of the mountain.Adrià Goula

That harsh world of the mountain that goes inside contrasts with the light and abstract intervention that the architects signed.

-Have you ever regretted leaving so much mountain alive? Well, it was a radical decision: letting the mountain in and it did have a technical cost so that no water got in. But once it consolidates, it gives a completely distinctive life to the house.

– So much so that the new part seems abstract? Man, today is not a pristine museum. Life and the passage of time have domesticated that new inner part. You are not in a renovated house. You are almost in a cave, you touch nature. That speaks in the house.

-And what does it say? It tells the relationship between history and history and with the place. It speaks from matter and is also conceptual: it summarizes the human energy that is necessary to build a wall.

Outside there is only tradition: the roof is made of tile and the materials are traditional materials. Inside it is much more modern. It has all kinds of comforts: heating or solar panels. It is not a tough house despite looking like it. In the end it is an unusual place. Sometimes you feel like in a cave and other times like in a viewpoint.

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