The MO House project belongs to a family of projects developed in the office beginning in 2005. These projects explore the possibilities of generating architectural complexity out of the combination of simple elements. Throughout this process of projects, conditioned by a large number of program specifications settled by the clients, we have been forced to systematize every design decision in order to simplify the process to its full capacity. The results produced a nice surprise: the combination of a number of extremely simple spaces offered an extremely rich spatial experience. We had found a new tool to work with. Thus we could transfer this system to other situations, the combinations would be multiple. A compact figure could become many different figures in the future, regarding new and specific project requirements. Some very simple basic rules and a series of pieces with adequate proportions would allow an endless range of solutions.
In 2010 we received a commission to design a single family house in a forest in the outskirts of Madrid. The opportunity y to implement this design system was there, again: although the programmatic requirements were more conventional, the site would demand a complex geometry.The powerful presence of the trees and the wish to have a house integrated in the woods led to a disaggregated solution. The program was transferred in a very direct and natural way to a number of simple rectangular pieces. The different topological relations between the pieces determined a series of useful solutions, 24 in the end. The optimal version was selected and the plan of the MO House was this way defined.
Wood in the woods
The final arrangement of the plan opened two technical issues that put the solution into question: the high variety of angles in the joints between pieces and a penalized shape factor that would result in a negative impact on the energetic performance of the house (an elevated façade-volume ratio). In addition to that, another key issue aroused: proximity of trees required a little aggressive foundation system.
The technical solution adopted in a first approach –steel skeleton with concrete slabs- did not seem viable. We needed a lighter system that could be assembled in a more accurate way. It had to be simple –like the plan- and thermally favourable. On a visit to his studio, a friend showed us a cross-laminated wood panel by KLH. The product met all the requirements: a solid structural material with high insulating performance and CNC manufactured at their Austrian factory. MO house would be solid wood. Wood in the woods. 72 mm thick walls. Slabs from 95 to 182 mm. The total weight of the structure would not reach one third of a conventional system. The foundations could therefore be made of galvanized steel micropiles only 2 meters long. The panels would be manufactured by numerical control cutting, ensuring accuracy at all angles.
The structure would be insulating, continuous, lightweight, precise and extremely thin. The floor of the house could be a direct transposition of the work scheme. The installation process would be fast and accurate. The nature of the project remained intact and its technical requirements had led us to the discovery of a new project matter.