The Chronicles of Catalonia: Weekend Retreat in Santa Pau
A young brother and sister, enchanted by their visits to Catalonia’s breathtaking Fageda d’en Jordà, a beech forest in a volcanic national park, were sure this must be the fictional world of Narnia. The children’s parents didn’t dispute the forest’s magical power. It was there that they had first spent time together themselves, as children on summer vacation.
Looking for a weekend retreat, the couple decided to purchase in the heart of the forest, in a subdivision that is technically part of the town of Santa Pau: a 2 ½-acre hillside property with a half-demolished shepherd’s cottage. To resurrect the lava-stone structure, they enlisted Sausriballonch Architects, the firm behind their suburban Barcelona apartment. The brief called for comfortably sleeping 12, as relatives were expected to visit often, as well as meeting strict preservation criteria.
Minimizing impact on the landscape was a given. “The home is surrounded by ancient trees,” principal Roser Saus notes. She and her fellow principal Marta Llonch Fontanet had to retain all four original walls. Bleaching the new lava stone used to patch them up created a seamless surface that complements the natural surroundings. “The colors are different every day and every season,” Llonch continues.
With the existing footprint untouched, square footage increased to 2,800, thanks to a new subterranean level carved into the hill. This bottom level contains the dining room, which draws sunshine via a skylight set into a terrace, and the family room, which doubles as a guest room. The main level is actually split-level, divided between the kitchen and living room. On the top level, Saus and Llonch placed the master bedroom and the childrens’ room.
After three years of construction, there’s a lot more than first meets the eye. Each bed in the children’s room hides a trundle bed, and the family room’s built-in bench contains fold-out single beds. In addition, a window in the family room opens wide enough for access to the pool.
Or do like the kids, and jump from farther uphill.