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Rufo House, Spain by Alberto Campo Baeza

Highly Commended: An ethereal hut towards the sky and a massive cave embedded in the Iberian landscape epitomize Campo Baeza’s sensibility for tectonic and stereotomic architecture

Conceived as a weekend retreat and set on a hillside near the historic citadel of Toledo, the Rufo House is a starkly simple bar in the landscape. A long podium, 6m wide and 3m high, extends across the length of the site. All domestic functions are deployed in this elongated box made from rough concrete, giving it the muscular feel of a military or industrial structure (bunker, gun emplacement, fortress). Its architect, Alberto Campo Baeza, prefers to call it a ‘cave’.

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The rough, tactile quality of the raw concrete plays off the precise, formal language of the architecture

The roughness of the concrete plays off a very precise and considered architectural language. Yet though it’s easy to label Baeza’s approach as ‘minimalist’, it is shaped by a more complex and sensual attitude to space, light and materiality. After all, this is a man who lined a bank headquarters with sheets of alabaster (AR August 2002). He relishes the way light moves, the colour or sheen of a particular stone, how built form relates to landscape. His buildings are rooted in the immemorial Iberian qualities of plainness, sobriety and impermeability (hermetic walls enclosing secret inner realms), all unsentimentally reframed for the modern age.

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The concrete box is perforated, creating a series of objects and voids to accommodate various domestic activities. Here, life is lived in a linear enfilade of volumes and courtyards, alternately compressed and then exposed to the wider world through large glazed openings resembling vitrines or shop windows.

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The concrete box is perforated by a series of courtyards, creating traditional patio-like spaces within the house

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From this labyrinth residents can escape to a dining and gathering space set on top of the podium. A simple concrete canopy shelters a glass box, ‘the hut on top of the cave’, says Baeza. Ethereal and crystalline, it surveys the landscape like the transparent bridge of a warship. The jury applauded the project’s finesse and conviction, and how it cultivated a calm reciprocity with the landscape.

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A glass pavilion sits astride the box, providing a vantage point from which to survey the surrounding landscape

Fact File

Architect: Alberto Campo Baeza

Photographs: Javier Callejas

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