Pregonda Coast, Menorca, Spain
When seen at a distance, this house near Pregonda on the island of Menorca in Spain disappears into the craggy hillside. This effect was planned by Barcelona architect Javier Barba, who designed the building architecture with Alfredo Vives for a European financier and his family. The site is on a steep promontory above a sequestered cove on the wild northern coast of the island. ‘It is a marvellous rocky hillside which descends to a private beach and a protected bay, and it is truly one of the most spectacular spots on the Mediterranean, one that many environmental groups are anxious to protect,’ says Barba. ‘In Menorca, the vernacular architecture is mostly simple, white-washed structures. However, it happens that there is another Menorcan vernacular, an ancient one. For this island was settled in prehistoric times by a people who lived in the island’s many caves and built numerous stone megaliths. It was from this that I drew my inspiration, as well as from a rather severe, square-shaped tower which already existed on the site,’ Barba explains.
The new house was planned at a forty-five-degree angle to this turn-of-the-century watch-tower and some deteriorating buildings on the lot, incorporating them into the plan. Barba’s final design consists of a compound of living areas, including a main house, a pool terrace and a guest-house built into the hillside.
‘I envisioned a stone building connected to the tower which would have a powerful, primordial shape -in this case, several stone walls slanting outwards –
and which would be able to hold its own against the drama of the landscape,’ says the architect. All of the structures are covered with rocks excavated from the site which give the house continuity with the landscape. Four buttresses counter the building’s strong horizontal. The south-east facade includes the pool terrace and the kitchen, dining- and living-room windows, which all look out to sea. Pockets of light and shade are produced by the windows, buttresses and recesses. The roof line of the guest-house, located above the main house, unites with the mountain. The guest-house is roofed with used tiles and decorated with wooden shutters typical of the English colonial influence on the island.
Barba planned that vistas within each space would include a generous view of the cove: ‘By orientating the house towards the east, I was able to maximize the views and ensure that the sun hit the house at an angle at which its rays were least intense. I also placed an atrium deep within the interior of the house. This enclosed court brings in natural light, so that the interior is not dark, and provides cross-ventilation.’ Terraces, stone paths and gardens are planted with cactuses, cypress trees, lavender and yellow wildflowers indigenous to the cove. Creepers overtake the walls of the roof-top terrace. ‘From the terrace, the distance between the house and the edge of the cliff and the view to the water gives the sensation of being perched amongst the rocks and exposed to the elements,’ says Barba. ‘Reduced to its essence, the house is all about a clear broad sky, a pacific sea and a brutal outcropping of rock.