CRUX arquitectos

Through the looking glass . TORRENTE

CRUX arquitectos . photos: © Milena Villalba

The illusion materialized through the looking glass allows us to perform spatial actions where it was not possible at first glance, to expand or reduce spaces, to make uses appear or disappear, to cause material levitations of built volumes, generating surprise in the viewer of a changing environment, within an apparently static and defined space.

I. The commission
“All of it: the light, the spaciousness and the fact that it was the place
where we have placed all of our dreams … ” The developers.

The house to be refurbished is located in Calicanto, Valencia, a garden house development linked to the mountain landscape.
The sufficient slope in the plot allowed the existing construction to be developed on two floors: one with direct access from the street and the second one, to be refurbished, on a lower level with three free façades in relation to the park and the pool.
The preexistent building was organized according to use, being the level related to the access specifically allocated to housing and placing the service floor and garage in the semi-basement.
The developer family wanted to regain the semi-basement level, a relegated space in the house, and with it all the moments shared as a family (cooking, playing, exercising, reading, resting), to be able to enjoy it alone or with friends.

II. The challenge
The floor plan of the intervention, with a square proportion, has as fixed and determining elements: a defined perimeter wall, two bearing columns in the center of the room and a two-section staircase that ensures the internal connection with the house.
Internally, a transverse partition divided the space into two areas: one of them conditioned for its proper lighting and ventilation, and the other one with two openings facing north-west, linked to the park through a semi-covered area.
Finally, a lateral access from the street through a vehicular ramp guarantees independent use at this level.
The need to generate open and diaphanous spaces was raised here, while allowing the alternative of having areas for independent use and thus being able to develop different activities in a space with defined limits.

III. The illusion
Being able to integrate the exterior into the interior, duplicating the space sensorially by bringing light into areas where it couldn’t reach. Harboring uses that require intimate conditions in a unified space. Turning the storage room level into one more room in the house.
A method that could generate effects of transformations, unions, links, disappearances and duplications was needed, making possible desired illusions a reality.

IV. The trick
The strategy was based on three operations. Firstly, architecture was understood as equipped volumes, centralized in space, allowing the generation of differentiated areas within a single contained space.
The concentration of services in two modules simultaneously supplies all the areas: on the one hand from the kitchen to the dining room, on the other hand the toilet, shower and sink, which can function independently or in combination, and lastly a washing area towards a temporary hanging area.
Secondly, the central position of the modules and their condition of parallelism guarantees free movement among them without overlapping activities. The existing staircase materializes as the third module, becoming part of the new system.
Four folding doors are in charge of operating the space and building the scenographies for the different uses. Each module is linked to the next by folding these planes that contain the internal circulations between volumes and that transform them into small rooms.
Finally, the game of illusion is formalized by incorporating reflections as a material definition of space.
The presence of mirrors in the baseboards and upper strips guarantee the lightness of the equipped boxes, transforming them into volumes levitating in space. The doors in their position duplicate the light condition of the environment, pushing back what is ahead. Their complete folding makes the areas independent, ensuring the simultaneity of uses and offers us through reflection the illusion of seeing things in an identical but inverted manner, the house through the looking glass.
… Mirrors reflect, hide, lie, deform, confess. The looking glass, for example, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is presented as a gateway to a wonderful reverse world. In Snow White, it acquires the human quality of speaking, responding and reflecting on situations -or wishes- distant in space or time.
The mirror, when we stand in front of it, shows us the harsh reality, the passage of time and it becomes the judge of our soul -that is why vampires are not reflected in it. But it also reflects, as in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, not the image of the beholder but their most intimate desires. Mirrors have also been related to many of the characters and actions of some of our most celebrated works: The Knight of the Mirrors in Don Quixote or in the beautiful passage from Tirant lo Blanc (1490), where Tirant declares his love for Carmesina by giving her a chest containing a mirror and telling her that, in his present, she will be able to see the image of the damsel that he loves deeply. What a surprise did Carmesina have when she saw the image of her face reflected in the mirror and confirmed that she was Tirant’s great love.
This has been our intention: that what we most appreciate (the guests who visit our and their home) become reflected and thus appreciate what they are: beloved people who make up a fundamental part of our life and, of course, of our Family…
Raquel, Vicent and Maria