The Andalucian town of Setenil de las Bodegas looks like something from the set of a culturally adventurous fantasy film, but cave dwelling is actually common in Andalucia; being so close to the African continental plate, geological forces threw up mountain ranges and volcanoes that are perfectly suited for habitation. The rocks and caves make for surprisingly easy settlement, and the nearby Cueva de la Pileta shows evidence of a human presence up to 25,000 years ago. After that, though, the inhabitants of the caves here are mostly ignored up until the 12th century, when Setenil’s Moorish castle appears on the historical record.
Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos has been selected to receive the 2015 Alvar Aalto Medal. Awarded every three years, the Alvar Aalto Medal recognizes an office or architect “with outstanding merit in creative architecture.” Nieto Sobejano and its founders – Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano—were commended by the jury for their profound understanding of the local cultures where they work.
“Nieto and Sobejano were key names in the new wave of Spanish architecture, which emerged in the late 1970s. The roots of their architecture lie in Spain, and its multi-layered history and culture,” the jury wrote. “Their works speak a silent language, proving that the precondition of meaningful architecture is an in-depth understanding of local culture and the context of the design brief.”