A rare discovery in Spain’s Galician hills remains, to this day, a paragon of modernist architecture.
Casa Albalat resides in the northwest corner of Spain, in a region famous for its rugged coastlines and rolling green hills. In the 1970s, when the home was built, architectural expression in Galicia and other parts of Spain was hindered under the Francoist dictatorship. The late architect Andres Albalat resisted the status quo by designing what was, at the time, a very rare piece of architecture. Andres’ resolve certainly garnered attention then; fast forward 40 years, and his creation is a symbol of the modernist movement and its lasting effects on the design world.
This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 47: Creative State of Mind (pp. 186-201).
The hilltop home was taken over following Andres’ passing by two fashion entrepreneurs with an appreciation for architecture and the modernist movement, who live there with their two young daughters. For the most part, they left the house as they found it, except for a few furniture and lighting pieces from their personal collection. A small renovation was also carried out in the kitchen and the primary bedroom to accommodate their family of four.
Aesthetics aside, the home’s location was a big drawcard for the new homeowners. Elevated and overlooking a landscape of tree-covered hills and winding rivers; the site’s connection to nature has been a constant for more than four decades. The garden is painted green with the leaves of the surrounding oaks, birches and chestnuts, attracting a number of birds and other wildlife. “We try to be in the garden whenever we can; watching our two daughters play with our dog never gets old,” the homeowner says.
Andres specified local materials when constructing the home; zinc and stone for the exterior, together with timber and more stone for the interiors. The exterior remains relatively true to the region and what was considered customary at the time. The large glass windows and ceilings at the front of the home, in particular, are characteristic of the neighbouring city of A Coruna – also known as ‘The City of Glass’. Stepping inside, calm white walls and warm wood textures mark the transition into a more Nordic atmosphere – a reflection of the influence of the modernist movement in Scandinavia during the 1970s.
The new homeowners were the perfect successor to Casa Albalat; they have maintained the home’s icon status while honouring and building on Andres’ original intent. Their pursuit of creativity is multi-disciplined – applying to both their careers in fashion and their interest in architecture and interior design. “As people in fashion, we value the fine details in great measure – and this house is full of them,” the homeowner says. Pieces such as the timber dining table, the copper fireplace, and the yellow and white easy chairs at the front of the house were custom-made by Andres, which the homeowners gladly inherited. They then brought in pieces such as the orange Castelli DSC 106 dining chairs and Herman Miller Eames lounge chair – tell-tale signs of the design-inclined. “What surprised me most about the owner’s style was how perfectly it fit into the modernist architecture of the home,” stylist Meredith Clark says. “It was actually difficult to clarify what was original to the house and what they had brought with them due to how seamlessly it flowed.”
“There are no other houses like this one in Galicia – it was like finding a jewel.”