Colonial-style house gets a contemporary renovation and the new design is defined by the use of natural wood and white elements
“The island of La Palma is home to the most important astronomical observatory in the Northern Hemisphere as it has one of the clearest skies in the world. Its geographical location, weather patterns and regulation on light pollution make this island a unique area. In this case, we are commissioned to renovate and extend a traditional dwelling sharing party walls, situated in the old town of Los Llanos de Aridane on the island of La Palma.
The house is located in very emblematic surroundings, which are of great interest from an architectural and heritage perspective. Built at the end of the XIX cent., this ensemble of colonial-style houses gives definition to a square where the architecture and vegetation comprise one of the city’s most representative places.
The house is comprised of a colonial building that overlooks the square and a reinforced concrete extension added in the 40s. At the time of the intervention, both parts of the building are in very poor condition. The original house has numerous defects in the volcanic rock walls, the wooden coffered ceiling under the hip roof and all the timber joinery work. Furthermore, the previously built extension has to be knocked down as so many years of abandonment have left it in a state of disrepair.
The intervention respects the very typologically built part in its use of materials and construction systems. The intervention from the 40s is knocked down and the original housing is restored, placing value on all the elements that give the property its uniqueness.
Once the old colonial building is repaired, the new housing is built with new rectangular modules, each of which is topped with a pitched roof and a skylight facing a different area of La Palma’s sky. These modules are located both inside and outside the existing house, showcasing it and enhancing its formal and tectonic features. While the exterior of each module showcases the scenery of the island and the city, on the inside these parts emphasize the existing elements like the wooden coffering ceiling and volcanic rock walls.
Thus, the different resources that distinguish popular architecture are transferred to the intervention but with a contemporary take on them. The pitched roofs on each of the new modules are a nod to the pitched roofs of the colonial architecture of the different buildings around the square. The construction of the internal courtyards are clear references to the area’s traditions and history. The use of a timber structure also acknowledges the old construction systems used throughout the whole neighbourhood.
To carry out the intervention in this style, timber is chosen for various elements of the project. The structure, which could not be built any other way given its geometry, is made of pre-fabricated pieces of cross laminated conifer from the Pyrenees. This material, in addition to its properties and sustainability, is a load-bearing element as well as an interior finishing. The timber is also used for all the interior and exterior joinery, kitchen furnishings, and doors retrieved from the existing building which can be reused in various areas of the house.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the choice of these pre-fabricated construction systems gives us greater control over work and costs. The technology used in the construction of this housing has allowed us to build a very energy efficient dwelling with extremely high technical quality standards and a deep respect for the heritage.”