Pragmatism and theory meet in Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco’s ‘Real Estate Boom House’
The architecture and construction industry in Spain was booming in the final two decades of the 20th century. The country was riding a wave of bliss and – perceived, at least – prosperity, with new projects springing up everywhere, from housing blocks and single family dwellings to museums and civic buildings of all shapes and sizes. Then, a few years into the 21st century, things drastically changed. The worldwide financial crisis hit the Mediterranean country hard, leaving it with a number of unfinished works and even more that remained disused, unsold and empty. The Spanish Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale depicted just that, winning the year’s Golden Lion as a result.
New York and Barcelona-based Lluís Alexandre Casanovas Blanco is all too familiar with this situation. The architect has been researching the current state of the industry in his native country for a while, looking at the housing bubble as a period of ‘frenzied economic growth’. His latest renovation project, the ‘Real Estate Boom House’ is a direct result of this exploration.
Casanovas Blanco’s beautiful drawings depict the design of the house that spans three levels
‘The so-called “Spanish housing bubble” collapsed in 2008, leaving behind a huge housing stock which reflects the societal transformation of most of the country’s population from lower middle-class to upper-middle class’, says Casanovas Blanco.
A single family house built in the booming 1990s in the Catalan village of Cardedeu, a short drive from Barcelona – became his case study. ‘The house can be considered paradigmatic of the aesthetic fostered by this financial phenomenon for at least three reasons’, he explains.
Casanovas Blanco led a series of interventions in the house that highlight three key points about the building – the design, material and construction that make this house typical of its era, its views of the village, fields and surrounding urbanisation, and the domestic interior typology of its generation.
The staircase was carefully ‘excavated’ and became a key feature in the new design. Different areas were given a refresh and treated with a mix of new techniques and traditional crafts. The project includes, for example, the development of a textile prototype using Castilian bobbin lace, which was woven by the client and resident of the house.
Casanovas Blanco also aims to highlight through his artistic work a generation of architects who ‘constructed their practice as a foray into alternative forms of architectural production such as performance, criticism or curatorial work’, he adds. §