Multi-family dwellings


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Refurbishment of the Gernika country house

Javier Bárcena y Luis Zufiaur, arquitectos

FAD Awards finalist 2007  Architecture
Description Technical file

The Caserío Gernika is a building of unique characteristics of scale, volumetry and materials that, though it cannot strictly be listed as a monument, possesses notable constructional value as a representative element of the architecture made in Vitoria at the start of the century. These circumstances have caused it to be included in the category of “Structural Conservation” by the General Plan of Vitoria- Gasteiz.The original building was constructed in 1906 and stands on a garden of noble dimensions, with the Caserío Gernika in the centre and the rest of the annexes articulated around this main building. It is this past splendour that we sought to recover, building four dwellings in the main building and rebuilding an annexe linked via a glass gallery that houses a room for communal use and four private rooms as well as a basement for car parking.The effort put into the proposal has interpreted the existing elements to adapt them to the needs of the present, understanding the simple three-dimensional order of the built volumes as a contraposition between two types of architectural languages: more classic for the noble building and contemporary for the annexe.This is a forceful yet serene and respectful intervention that has the only objective of recovering the original nobility of the old principal building and its tree-lined surroundings.
Caserio Gernika. Intervening on an existing building inevitably requires taking up a position with regard to its transformation in space and in time. The Caserío Gernika was built in 1906 with a series of characteristics that are highly representative of its time that, though it cannot strictly be listed as a monument, was included by the Municipal Byelaws in the category of Structural Conservation, meaning that its volumetry, the characteristic ornamental elements and the materials with which it had been built had to be conserved.The building stands within a garden city structure, a complex of dwellings where the petite bourgeoisie of Vitoria settled. The plot enjoys a garden of generous dimensions very near the centre of the city. The construction was commissioned by the patriarch of the Buesa family for his numerous family of thirteen children.
The building was inhabited until the early nineteen-nineties and after a period of abandonment work began on its recovery in the month of April 2004.
This intervention is a contemporary work on an existing structure, treated with sensibility, articulated around four elements: the principal building, the new-build annexe, the glass gallery and the garden.
The main building. The main building houses a programme of four duplex dwellings of generous dimensions. Strategically, the intermediate floors house the bedroom zone in a programme shared by the four dwellings. The main rooms, kitchen and living area, enjoy the garden on the ground floor and ample terraces in the attic storey with spectacular vistas over the Mountains of Vitoria.
Natural materials, wood and stone, have been used that with their imperfections generate primordial textures that are rooted in the perception of the rough but sincere Basque character.
This building featured an annexe in its original state that in its recovery process has been given a completely contemporary treatment: a slatted shutter in oak wood that conceals and protects the great windows of the bedrooms.
The annexe. Separated from the principal building a new body has been built to complete the build capacity assigned to the plot. The programme of dwellings has been completed with an ample room for each one of them that can be used as a guest apartment, professional study, home office or playroom for the children.
In order to respect the surroundings, this building has been resolved over a single storey. The intervention is forceful, with reinforced concrete walls and a wood slat treatment that serves to support the forging of alveolar slabs. It did not require pillars to hold up a height of approximately twelve metres. The basement storey houses the garages. The building is protected in back and opens up towards the garden via windows of considerable dimensions.
The Gallery. Perhaps the key element of the intervention is the glass gallery. Not only is this an element that arranges the space and establishes a hierarchy for it; but this is a room in itself for the many days on which Vitoria’s weather is poor. It operates as a transparent cloister when the glass is used as an enclosure, but only on one of the sides.
In construction terms, the metal feet simultaneously resolve the frames and the structure. The floor is concrete poured in situ and then polished, with the noble touch reserved for the oak wood ceilings. The lighting constituted by concealed LED-type lights creates a suggestive play of light and shadow at dusk.
The principal reference when it came to tackling the project was the marvellous Louisiana museum designed by Jorgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert.

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Localización: calle Los Buesa. Vitoria-Gasteiz. Autores: Javier Bárcena y Luis Zufiaur, arquitectos. Arquitecto técnico: Aitor Royo. Colaboradores: Pilar Blanco, Beatriz Ipz de Suso. Raquel Mielgo, Marta Paternain, Juan María Sancho y Miren Zufiaur. Maquetista: Manuel Jiménez. Estructura: José Ramón Cueva. Instalaciones: Ingeniería RPM. Construcción: Euroaraba Proyectos. Fotografía: Pedro Pegenaute.
Javier Bárcena
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Alaba
Luis Zufiaur
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Alaba
Pedro Pegenaute