Collaborators: Lucía Balboa Domínguez, Raquel Quirós
Clients: La Hermandad de Villalba
Text description provided by the architects. Villalba de los Barros is a small town in the south of Extremadura, in a region called Tierra de Barros; an enormous extension of vines along a gently rolling landscape that stands out for the intense red colour of clay of the soil that gives it its name. The tower of the old castle of Villalba stands on the plains, as a fortified construction of the frontier times in the Reconquista, dominating the small village of small whitewashed houses. One of these houses, perhaps the most unique, located by the main square and built in the eighteenth century, is the starting point for our project.
It is a rural inn that adapts with meticulous respect to the original architecture, putting in value and enhancing all the original strengths lost over time, but also adapting and incorporating the new use and its requirements from a contemporary perspective. The house, with two floors, has a typical configuration, with three load-bearing bays and an Extremaduran vault on the ground floor. It opens onto the entrance square on one side and onto a small courtyard on the other. The whole social area has been included on this floor: hall, living room, kitchen, dining room and courtyard.
The original spaces were recovered, but new openings to the courtyard and between rooms were also included to open up perspectives and to get more light. From a material point of view, raw lime mortar has been used on all the walls and lime paint on the vaults. The original clay pavement had been completely lost, but we went to potters in the area who made us new pieces by hand with a similar texture as the old pavement. Only the diagonal and irregular arrangement of the drawings, as a mirroring reference to the ceilings, allows to differentiate and date this flooring as contemporary.
These manual bricks are also extended on the outside courtyard to the edge of the small pool that has been built to cool the hot summer days. The carpentry work also stands out, both for the careful restoration of the richly decorated original elements and for the work on the new doors, windows and fittings. The set of bedrooms has been taken to the upper floor, an old attic, which was used as a storage and a space to cure meat. This level has been restructured almost completely, but in terms of scale, finishes and furnishings, the atmosphere and unique character of the house have been preserved.
The rural house has 3/4 bedrooms and three bathrooms, a hallway, a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a courtyard and a storage room. It is equipped with modern facilities to ensure comfort. Special care has been taken both in the use of materials and air conditioning systems, in their sustainability, in line with the logic that the vernacular architecture itself represents. Our goal and the greatest achievement of this project has been to merge our intervention with the preexisting architecture in a process of uncovering and revealing, where our handprint almost disappears so that each element finds its natural order. Its true expression.