by Jerry ElengicalJan 04, 2023
Designed by Madrid-based Raúl Almenara, Casa del Nogal is a minimalist home nestled in the picturesque province of Ávila, Spain. Designed around a majestic 100-year-old walnut tree, the home is an example of artistic living that integrates architecture with the natural environment that surrounds it. The use of innovative construction techniques paired with locally sourced granite and strategically placed fenestrations, establish an intimate connection between the inhabitants of the house and its natural setting.
The genesis of Casa del Nogal lies in the conversion of an old rural orchard in Ávila into a contemporary-designed home. The large walnut tree becomes not just the visual focal point, but also the soul and epicentre of the entire design. The architects pay homage to the tree’s roots and striking silhouette by creating a piece of residential architecture with character. Inspired by the tree, the architects blend the structure into its surrounding landscape and establish a profound connection between nature, artifice, sustainability, and architecture.
Talking about the central inspiration behind the design, Spanish architect Raúl Almenara says, “The house is a poem to the century-old walnut tree that already existed in the orchard. My intention was to capture the air of the place: the touch, the light, the sound, the views, the scent [...] the intangible that characterises a site. But not only the physical parameters but also the customs of the environment.”
The architect achieves this connection by creating a house with the appearance of a giant rock, seamlessly blending into the natural landscape. The use of granite for the façade exudes solidity that is reinforced with the use of the same material on the access doors. The sloping roof is a nod to the architecture of the area and lends the home some depth and movement.
Casa del Nogal uses three large outlooks into the natural world that establish a strong connection between the interior spaces and the outside. The first features a curved glass pane facing the walnut tree, allowing the inhabitants to appreciate it from within. This window also introduces a large table of stone characters that cross the glass, which is a physical manifestation of the connection between the interior and exterior. The second vista, frames the front landscape design, offering captivating views of the area's transhumance. The third detail comprises numerous windows, creating a celestial panorama that allows residents to sleep while stargazing.
The table allows users to be inside contemplating through the window, the great continuous spectacle of nature, and to be outside under the shade of the walnut tree, as a tradition of the village. – Continues Almenara
Upon entering Casa del Nogal, visitors are greeted by an interior courtyard design, emphasising the house's intention to be enjoyed in the presence of natural elements. The glass protecting the courtyard moves to create a seamless connection with the other rooms, blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. The house is divided into public and private areas, with the large double-height room acting as a dining room, kitchen, and living room. A lower level houses the winter living room with a fireplace that creates a warm and intimate space.
The design of the home primarily revolves around the use of locally sourced granite. An earthy materiality and aesthetic is maintained through the structural element of the house such as the stairs, bathrooms, kitchen coverings, and even the tables. The architects deliberately avoided using wood, ensuring that the material characteristics of the walnut tree remained dominant. Glass and metal were chosen as secondary materials, allowing abundant natural light to fill the home, and providing a contrasting yet complementary aesthetic to the stone architecture. Stainless steel cable railings deliberately resemble the shadows of a tree and further strengthen the connection with nature.
Describing the crucial role material plays in the design, Almenara says, “The granite and stone used in the house from the surrounding landscape, which make life inside the house seem to take place outdoors. In nature. These materials have made the house look as if it has always been there, anchored to the place, with the character of belonging to a place and staying there.”
Casa del Nogal stands as a key example of a residential design that seamlessly integrates architecture and nature. Through thoughtful design choices and deep respect for the existing landscape, Almenara has created a harmonious living space that pays homage to the century-old walnut tree while providing a comfortable and sustainable home for its inhabitants. The house's solid and stony character and large openings not just embrace, but also successfully use natural light. The home’s strategic relationship with the surroundings makes Casa del Nogal a true blend of comfort and nature in perfect harmony.
Name: Casa del Nogal
Location: Ávila, Spain
Year of completion: 2022
Design Firm: Raúl Almenara