Interior Design 09·11·2020
Living at the end of the world: moving from the well trodden path lifestyle
The desire to escape from an increasingly frenetic pace of life had begun to steer architecture towards remote areas. The pandemic and a few months of lockdown have done the rest: we now see the home as a refuge.
Although the impact of the pandemic can be measured in many ways, both economic and social, there is no doubt that on a personal level, our relationship with the home has changed greatly. Confinement has forced us to endlessly face the four walls of our home assessing its peculiarities alongside its advantages and its drawbacks. This has been intensified by a sense of isolation that prevented us from eluding the reality of our surroundings.
“Life after COVID-19 will never be the same again,” says Ukrainian architect Sergei Makhno. “We are at the beginning of the end, catching glimpses of a new start. Planet Earth will not go on cooperating with us unless we urgently change our behaviour.” This is demonstrated by his projects in 21 countries, which share a common thread of sustainability with respect for local tradition and craftsmanship, developing a new vocabulary with them. “Values will change alongside our lives and our habits. And it is clear that under this influence our homes will also change,” he concludes. The predictions that are part of his thinking highlight the search for houses rather than apartments: in other words, relocation and an exodus from urban areas in favour of rural areas that are not gentrified.
But getting away from it all is just a small part of a new approach to architecture that is beginning to make its presence felt. The desire for total isolation has been intensified by the global recession caused by the crisis, although it was already being shaped by the increasingly widespread rejection of a frenetic lifestyle, and has led to a concept of houses which, rather than being isolated, are almost inaccessible and located in the most unexpected parts of the planet. Places where we can withdraw and recover a calmer pace of life, to gain a perspective of what is really important and what our busy lives have made us take for granted. As a result, conquering the tops of the highest mountains or cliffs by remote beaches, seeking to become part of them through the most innovative contemporary design, is beginning to occupy architects’ attention.
Some are built for the occupants to enjoy wild, rugged landscapes, such as the Seacape Retreat designed by Pattersons Associates in New Zealand; S House, by Alric Galindez Arquitectos in Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina; or the refuge Kidosaki Architects has created in the Yatsugatake Mountains of Nagano, on the island of Honshu, using large windows and balconies to make the most of the views of a landscape that stretches to the horizon without the usual obstacles of office blocks and skyscrapers.
Others delight in mastering the environment and stand proud and artificial on the highest peaks, such as Casa Malalcahuello by Guillermo Acuña Arquitectos Asociados in Chile, between Malalcahuello National Reserve and the Lonquimay volcano.
And there are those that try not to leave any sign of their presence against their pristine backdrop and are sunk into the ground, often being built with sustainable local materials. We can see an example of this in the project by architectural firm Amezcua Arquitectos and MM real estate in a former sand mine in Mexico City, which has been turned into a photocatalytic cave. In addition to playing with contrasts using the Noken Urban tap collection and KRION® pure white panels, which counteract the limited ventilation and lack of natural light with the K·Life system, allowing air purification through the effect of photocatalysis, the original confined spaces have been preserved to emphasise the sense of privacy.
And there are even hotels, such as the Hotel Viñas de Lárrede. On the outside it preserves a façade that comes from an old demolished mansion, while the interior is a temple where we find Ston-Ker® Arizona Arena by Porcelanosa, Legend 1L Light natural wood parquet flooring by L’Antic Colonial and bathrooms by Noken – for anyone who just wants (and can afford) to get away from it all for a few days.
From Mexico to Norway, any point on the globe is suitable for one of these inspiring and reassuring architectural escape routes, provided that its inaccessibility challenges the accuracy of the best compass. In the Basque Country, Caserío Goizko, one of the oldest houses in Vizcaya, is being built in the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. With 750 square metres on three floors, the Goizko country house has maintained its original structures intact after the intervention of the Bilbao Architecture Team (BAT), who renovated the entire structure, adding local oak and pine and using resilient sustainable materials such as PAR-KER®, Porcelanosa’s ceramic parquet, which unifies the general design of the house.
And almost on the other side of the world, in the rugged Appalachian Mountains, in Cornwall, Connecticut, we find (or don’t find!) the Ledge house, in the form of an indigenous barn with a structure comprising flat clean surfaces. Its wooden façade has Shou Sugi Ban cladding, an ancestral Japanese burning technique that provides a rot-proof and insect-resistant finish.
This striking way in which architectural boundaries have been transcended shows us once again how human ingenuity can overcome physical barriers to make something as primordial as a house the best way to escape. So, if from now on our home will be the space where we have to spend most of our time, as decreed or because we want to, at least it should occupy (literally) the place it deserves.