Reshaping The Hollowed - Out Countryside

Gonzalo López Elorriaga
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid

Project idea

1950s. By the end of World War II, the number of tourists visiting the exotic and cheap Spanish coast increased. During decades, this promotion of sun and beach tourism led to the construction of numerous hotels and apartments. However, the overcrowding of the Spanish coast prompted its deterioration with derelict leisure complexes paralyzed as a result of the economic crisis that Spain suffered circa 2008.

The media spotlight has focused mainly on these abandoned seaside resorts. However, those real estate corpses laying inland acquire a greater relevance since they clash with the so-called Hollowed-out Spain. Their exclusion to the outskirts of urban centres directly interferes with the forgotten rural areas, neglecting the countryside, which quickly turns into wasteland.

It is funny seeing this contradiction between the oblivion of the resorts and the need for that same leisure to save the forgotten Spanish villages, since we are facing a paradigm shift where more people seek a vacation in contact with nature due to the COVID-19 far from the hustle and bustle of cities. However, rural areas are not equipped to sustain such incoming flow of population they so desperately need. In the midst of all these concrete ruins we find Peralvillo, a small rural village of barely 25 inhabitants surrounded long ago by an extensive pasture. Nowadays the traditional landscape of the Hollowed-out Spain prevails with no trace of that rich ecosystem.

This village is used as an experiment to raise the following question: Would both the pasture and the leisure complex be capable of meshing to provide a solution to the 'Hollowed-out rural Spain'? This project attempts to answer this question by proposing a symbiosis that, by rescuing this forgotten ecosystem, would offer an oasis of fun to a community that desperately needs it.

Project description

An inhabited wall is built around the village, defining a new boundary that treats the existing village as a redoubt of the rural environment to be preserved. While the wall houses the residences and the resort facilities, in its interstice with the village buildings, the pastureland springs up again. The strategy is to frame the pre-existing site through a perimeter and thus enhance its fertility. This idea is based on DOGMA's A Simple Heart project and its predecessor, Cedric Price's Potteries Think belt. In a similar way, a new social condenser is proposed, but replacing the educational with the recreational.

The poché approach in the layout of the floor plan results in a defined but varied and suggestive geometric figure, offering a contemporary reinterpretation of the cave as a holiday experience, where time is suspended. In response to the diversification of users, which to a large extent led to the disappearance of behaviourist tourism from traditional resorts, the rooms are proposed under the same structural system but from the diversity and uniqueness of the guest. The construction of this wall involves the confrontation of two architectures. The stereotomic, the wall, adopts the role of the central body which, perforated, houses the bedrooms and wet rooms. Upon the wall, a new tectonic architecture appears to shelter the communal spaces. The project thus arises from the opposition between intimate space and shared space, between the heavy and the light, between contemporary architecture and stony vernacular architecture.

Technical information

In homage to the vernacular constructions that once filled the pastures, the concrete walls are bush-hammered revealing the stones beneath the surface, highlighting their texture. This cyclopean treatment combines as construction material all the stones from nearby uncultivated lands and those forgotten materials lingering in the sites of abandoned leisure complexes.

The common use spaces are anchored to the stone architecture through a system of tri-articulated frames made up of metal trusses. The concrete slabs allows for the expansion of the rooms. The enclosure is made of corrugated cellular polycarbonate on the exterior façade but of glass on the interior face to allow the guest to participate in the new meadow landscape. A double translucent skin is thus designed on the outside which acts as a greenhouse, regulating the temperature of the interior space. In contrast to the bush-hammered finish of its elevation, the vaulted rooms are completed with a treatment based on coloured epoxy resin.

In conclusion, Reshaping The Hollowed-Out Countryside aims to assess this contradictory situation that has spread throughout Spain in recent years: Why do we continue to build these resorts when we can work with the rural environment that sees leisure both necessary and distant? In addition, I intend to go a step further by raising the possibility of extending the idea of framing a place to highlight its value as a viable project strategy both for the rural and for the graveyard of real estate corpses that has become the Spanish coast.

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