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.

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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 17 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

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

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    эт невероятно!идея шикарная!органическая архитектура…

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    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.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

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

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

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

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    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?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      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

      • Thumb up Thumb down +1

        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.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

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

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      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.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    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…

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    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.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    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…

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

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

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Innovation, but its still not cheap, there’s a lot of money that the threw away, in concrete. and cutting it to

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This is really SOMETHING.
    You can search for arguments against but you can’t doubt this amazing way of thinking about architecture.

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