Photography: José Navarrete & Gonzalo Botet
Andalucía, Spain, just over the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco, is the hottest place in Europe. Temperatures in the Gorafe Desert, in the province of Granada, soar to 50°C during the day in the summer. Underground is one’s best chance to find cool air: the hardy souls who lived here before air-conditioning built their homes in subterranean caves, emerging only in early morning and evening. These cave dwellers are known as trogloditas (or troglodytes) and their way of life, unsurprisingly given their name, remained largely unchanged for centuries.
But this part of Spain may not be associated only with its antiquated and rudimentary domestic architecture for long, as the celebrated Slovenian studio OFIS Arhitekti has constructed a glass-enclosed home in the middle of this desert, designed to take advantage of dramatic sweeping vistas and nightly astrological displays, in a manner that is environmentally conscious and forward-thinking.
Conceivably, if the trogloditas had had access to today’s technology, their dwellings might have looked more like these. Indeed, the landscape begs for a transparent home like this, as the desert’s shrubby yellow grasses create a soothing texturescape all the way to the horizon, at which point the view is punctuated by low mauve mountains. Deep arroyos rend the rocky earth, revealing burnished pink and taupe soil in the steep, sandy canyonlets. The area is renowned among stargazers for its altitude and remoteness (and subsequent lack of ambient light). It’s a place where you want to be able to see to the horizon all the time.
In such a setting, the architects’ intention was to erode boundaries between a human living here and their environment, while providing as much comfort as possible. Panes of floor-to-ceiling glazed glass ensconce the rooms of the symmetrical pavilion, and mirrored panels on the ceilings and floors reflect the pinks and purples of the surrounding terrain. Outdoor terraces surround the three wings of the home, while the same grey wood cassettes undergird the whole structure. Outdoor and indoor living spaces are bisected only by panes of glass, which act as transparent barriers.
But a glass-walled house presents a challenge in this landscape as well, if you don’t want residents to be sizzled to death like ants under a magnifying glass. OFIS Arhitekti partnered with the Spanish specialty manufacturer Guardian Glass to develop a specially glazed, highly insulated glass – patented as Guardian SunGlass – with a nearly invisible coating that filters solar radiation. Exterior curtains can also be drawn for even more shade. With these precautions in place, occupants can live comfortably in all seasons.
The Andalucían pavilion covers 20 square metres, with three wings emanating from a central core. One wing comprises a living area, another a bedroom, and the third an inset jacuzzi and rocking chair for companionable bathing. The central core rooms include a bathroom, storage space, and kitchenette. Cutting-edge technology anticipates challenges of the century to come: there are systems for water filtration, energy production are incorporated, and photovoltaic solar panels are installed on the roof.
OFIS Arhitekti is known for its houses designed for extreme environments. These include an Alpine bivouac in the mountains of Slovenia, informed by traditional architecture, and a cantilevered aluminium cabin perched on a rocky mountain cliff on the border between Slovenia and Italy. (Both homes had to be airlifted into place by the Slovenian military.) For Guardian Glass, the Andalucía home is an opportunity to prove that its Guardian SunGlass can ensure a comfortable temperature even in extreme environments.
The house is available for private rentals, through Airbnb and other listings platforms, for around 150 per night. But be forewarned, this little marvel is booked through summer 2019.