The Truffle / Ensamble Estudio

© Roland Halbe

Architects: Ensamble Estudio / Antón García-Abril
Location: Costa da Morte,
Collaborator: Ricardo Sanz
Quantity Surveyor: Javier Cuesta
Collaborator Companies: Tongadas & Zuncho Dolorido, SL. / Galicorte / Macías Derribos / Suministros Zurich / Ganadería Paulina
Project Area: 25 sqm
Project Year: 2006-2010
Photographs: Roland Halbe & Ensamble Estudio

The Truffle is a piece of nature built with earth, full of air. A space within a stone that sits on the ground and blends with the territory. It camouflages, by emulating the processes of mineral formation in its structure, and integrates with the natural environment, complying with its laws.

YouTube Preview Image

We made a hole in the ground, piling up on its perimeter the topsoil removed, and we obtained a retaining dike without mechanical consistency. Then, we materialized the air building a volume with hay bales and flooded the space between the earth and the built air to solidify it. The poured mass concrete wrapped the air and protected itself with the ground. Time passed and we removed the earth discovering an amorphous mass.

© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio

The earth and the concrete exchanged their properties. The land provided the concrete with its texture and color, its form and its essence, and concrete gave the earth its strength and internal structure. But what we had created was not yet architecture, we had fabricated a stone.

© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio

We made a few cuts using quarry machinery to explore its core and discovered its mass inside built with hay, now compressed by the hydrostatic pressure exerted by concrete on the flimsy vegetable structure. To empty the interior, the calf Paulina arrived, and enjoyed the 50m3 of the nicest food, from which she nourished for a year until she left her habitat, already as an adult and weighing 300 kilos. She had eaten the interior volume, and space appeared for the first time, restoring the architectural condition of the truffle after having been a shelter for the animal and the vegetable mass for a long time.

© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio

The architecture surprised us. Its ambiguity between the natural and the built, the complex materiality that the same constructive element, the mass unreinforced concrete, could provide the small architectural space, at different scales. From the amorphous texture of its exterior, to the violent incision of a cut that reveals its architectural vocation, leading to the fluid expression of the interior solidification of concrete. This dense materiality, which gives the vertical walls a rusticated scale, comes from the size of the bales, and contrasts with the continuous liquidity of the ceiling that evokes the sea, petrified in the lintel of the spatial frame that looks sublimely to the Atlantic Ocean, highlighting the horizon as the only tense line within the interior space.

© Ensamble Estudio
© Ensamble Estudio

To provide the space with all the comfort and the living conditions needed in architecture, we took the “Cabanon” of Le Corbusier as motif, recreating its program and dimensions. It is the “Cabanon of Beton” the reference that makes the truffle an enjoyable living space in nature, that has inspired and subdued us. And the lesson we learn is the uncertainty that led us in the desire to build with our own hands, a piece of nature, a contemplative space, a little poem.

Cite: "The Truffle / Ensamble Estudio" 26 Apr 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • archdaily

    what an incredible amount of free time

    • kevin


      • moE

        free time.. what??…it’s about having a passion for architecture

    • Javier

      Its really innovative… a first try, but I can imagine plenty of applications fot cheap housing…

  • Benjamin

    Something different.. nice result!

  • lolcake

    they spent five years to build a concrete room with textures of cow food. this is something new in nature.

  • ящик

    эт невероятно!идея шикарная!органическая архитектура…

  • jerry

    PROJECT OF THE YEAR!!!!! this is really something great. the allowance of the unknown is refreshing to see embraced instead of feared. really truly this is something to be proud of.

  • joey

    Casa da Música, but way better.

  • lisa


    • doug


  • james

    what a wonderflul little idea.
    i esspecially love that they had a calf eat the interior volume over a 1 year period.

  • rodolfo


  • PatrickLBC


  • E

    funny and great building!

  • josep

    beautiful and poetic! what a way to end my night! Wonderful!


    Earthworm Jim, Excellent!
    from Chihuahua. Mx.

  • gus bianchi

    este experimento hace avanzar a la arquitectura. muy intersante el concepto y su aplicación.

  • Jeff

    Earthworm Jim, Excellent!
    from Chihuahua. Mx.

  • David Basulto

    Once again Anton bring us innovation in building techniques.

    Please, check other works by his firm here:

  • bella

    i love it, really an awesome piece

  • shetu

    the most striking point about this project is its construction technique, no doubt. specially feeding up a calf the whole interior volume for over a year is quite innovative. my question is why did you depend upon a calf to do that for a long span of time. Its not like that you gave the animal total freedom of creating the shape of the void inside. you already know how the shape is going to be at the end. then why did you depend on her only to remove the hays whereas you used bulldozer, concrete mixer in the same project?

    • fakecalf

      In order for that statement to be true then they used two different calves for the photo shoot – in one year the animal would have been much much bigger. obviously a fake

      • nathan

        who cares anyway? the project is fun smart and classic… the least of my concern is the cow photo shoot. plus, yeah if the client had a year to waste/wait, let the cow hang out… plus i’m guessing nobody knew if the structure would hold… so let it sit for a year see if it does if so finish it out. great project again.

  • Pingback: Tiny House Design , Archive » The Truffle by Ensamble Estudio

  • GBA

    how does it work structurally once the support (hay) is gone?
    Is there any steel in it?

    • Javier

      It doesn´t need almost any steel because with this little span, and such a thick roof, the concrete can work as if it was a dome, the loads following an arch-shape path to the walls, so almost everything is sxial forces and shear, no bending, so not steel needed.

  • sam

    Fun and poetic. Though the sheer tonnage of concrete per m2 of floor space seems awfully wasteful given its high embodied energy. It’s really neat, I just wish it could have been done in a slightly more responsible way…

  • robert

    love the idea and the interior space but IMO they should have let this structure covered with earth and grass with space only for acces and window.

  • Pingback: The Truffle / Ensamble Estudio | Building Station

  • up_today_arch

    A lot, a lot, a lot of strange peoples in the world… But… it pushes the progress and gives us a lot of new ideas… It is terrific example of new ways of architecture…

  • Pingback: 原始スペース(Truffle) : monogocoro ものごころ

  • sergio

    Me parece genial. Gracias Antón por este soplo de aire fresco.

  • pathos

    This is not a new technique. Arcosanti employed similar techniques to build their domes: This is an interesting project however and in my opinion they achieved their stated goal which was to build a little poem with their own hands.

  • Nicholas Patten

    I'd Live Here: The Truffle.

  • that’s what she

    excuse me…please learn!…we need more ideas and techniques like these. love it!

  • nick

    Absolute heroes!