CASA de RETIRO ESPIRITUAL was designed by Emilio Ambasz in 1975. This house, that has been thought to be by some, a minimalist idea, and by others a deconstructionist fable, is, instead, an unclassifiable statement about architectural essentials and beauty.
"The design that first brought Emilio Ambasz to international attention as an architect is one of the most compelling architectural images of our time. Unforgettably, two tall white walls rise like sails from a green sea of grass. A steep cantilevered staircase climbs each of the walls to meet at the right-angled juncture of the two white sheets.
This dual mirror like image soars mysteriously above a square sunken courtyard. Beyond this lies the house itself, waiting to be discovered, its alcove-like-rooms spread out amid serpentine skylights and openings."
Excerpt from an essay by Peter Buchanan
The ultimate house on the landscape
This unique home, designed in 1975, subsequently went on to win the 1980 'Progressive Architecture Award', which equated to a categorical recognition of the progressional statement that is Casa de Retiro Espiritual. With this project Ambasz sought to go back to the origins of architecture. The result is a building that seems to stand for the essence of architecture.
Emilio Ambasz, considered one of the most foremost architects in the world, was originally commissioned to undertake this work under the premise of creating a chic country retreat. This brief has been achieved but something much more poignant has been created here. Ambasz has constructed a house that is irrevocably at union with its natural environment, a place of spiritual reconciliation fusing the relationships between nature and architecture.
This house was devised both as a receptacle for the changing play of light and mood as well as a carefully choreographed series of experiences. It is unmistakable due to the towering walls that form a visual centrepiece, these serve to protect, define and cover the house, essentially they act as an icon for the house residing below hidden by a blanket of green.
The house has been described as an 'Andalusian Dream', situated within 600 hectares of lush countryside of olive groves, evergreen trees and overlooking a sparkling lake, it is an oasis of calm, ideal for contemplation and reverie. This rural setting plays in dramatic contrast to the stark ascetic appearance of the angular forms that dominate the skyline. The house shows strong Moorish and Arabic influences, especially evident in the positioning of the patio at the heart of the house, a focal living space for traditional households.
Embasz shows through his design his recognition of the responsibility architects have to protect the land. The house is reconciled in its environment, it makes a welcome addition to the scenery rather than taking away from its beauty. When the house was first conceived in the mid 1970's it represented the green ideal in its own productive garden estate. And therein lies its appeal, this is essentially a house in which you can enjoy contemplative reclusion within a structure epitomised by stark and boldly dramatic design.
ARCHITECT: EMILIO AMBASZ & ASSOCIATES