Retina House by Arnau Estudi d’Arquitectura

Designed in 2017 by Arnau Estudi d’Arquitectura, this inspiring concrete two-story house is located in Santa Pau, Spain.

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An old red Massey Ferguson like Grandpa Joan’s still works the land. In this fast-paced world, there are still ancient landscapes where the fumes of the neighbouring houses are important and accompany you in winter; corners of happiness where orchards outside the walls and on the banks of the river are nicely kept. This is the story of a family refuge where one can enjoy nature and simple things; of a time machine that wants to keep this precious landscape forever unchanged.

In this project, a meadow was constructed as an adaptation to the topography of the terrain. Elements, such as the garage, the water basin, the walkway or the sloping wall in the background that follows and cuts the steep slope, form a flat surface. And on its top, there rests an autonomous rectangular volume that houses the minimum functions of a dwelling in a single open-plan space; to the south, there is a living, dining and resting room; and within the thick wall that isolates us from the north, there are toilets and the entrance.

This architectural object transforms its relationship with the environment as the seasons change in the riverbank vegetation filter that accompanies it, but also from the varying expression of its gaze, which enjoys the landscape protected from the sun when it raises its eyelids. And, fearful of the brevity of this sober beauty, the refuge rests unstable on a hillside ledge like an owl ready to take flight with the landscape caught on its retina.

RETINA HOUSE, a room over a meadow

Casa Retina can be interpreted in various ways depending on the reference system adopted. We can understand it as an autonomous element with an intimate and controlled relationship with the immediate environment, either through its changing gaze, or through its neutral and naked interior spaces, directed to the landscape and prepared to receive all the complexity of the interior life.

However, this house can also be understood as another piece of the human puzzle that hosts it, as another room in this large house that forms the outside walls of the medieval town. These areas of humanized nature represent the transitional strip between the old town and the forest. A space that is often more domestic than urban environments themselves, which a priori are made and thought of by a person, but which at the same time are as hostile as wild nature or even more hostile than it can be.

This environment connects us with nature in a progressive way: houses scattered further and further away from each other, vegetable gardens and orchards that give off the affection of their owners and give us life, the neighboring farm where cows graze and ruminate… The river and the makeshift passage… The nearby landscape in which the house gets the refuge it has been looking for and which converts it into a space of intimacy and comfort.

With the same respect of the man that has transformed the nature of this place, the first step of the project is the domestication of the land creating an allotment. From here on, Retina House is a room above a meadow that rests, contemplates, dialogues, or closes its eyes and dreams.

Photography courtesy of Arnau Estudi d’Arquitectura

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- by Matt Watts