AR_EA 2008 prize winner: stacked wooden cases mark the perimeter of this idyllically situated hotel
Originally published in AR December 2008, this piece was republished online in August 2016
The programme must, at first sight, have been a daunting one: create a high quality hotel of design distinction in a location whose characteristics include extreme temperatures, constant wind, and swirling dust of the Bardenas desert. On the other hand, natural features close to the site, outside Tudela in Navarre, also include wheat fields and irrigated green sites along the banks of the Ebro River; a spectrum ranging from fertile to arid.
The response of the architects was impressive, using difficulties and constraints (including time and budget) as a starting point for a design which is as unexpected as it is practical. The stacked wooden cases that mark the perimeter of the hotel block wind while allowing air through; they are very cheap (generally used for packing fruit and vegetables), are portable and require no foundations. This helped to keep the construction time for the project to 14 months. They also relate to local agricultural buildings, the barns owned by various co-operatives.
On the other hand, nature as prospect rather than problem is addressed in the hotel rooms via projecting windows, lined in plywood, providing frameless views to the plain and the mountains beyond, or to more intimate spaces between room and perimeter wall. The linings conceal both frame and solar shades, and allow for an extra bed or seating space. Orientation of rooms is generally north-east to maximise the most spectacular views while avoiding direct sunlight.
The specificity of the design relates not only to site but also to interiors. The architects created customised bathtubs, shower-plates and wash-basins (using folded powder-coated steel sheet), and also designed most of the furniture both in the public spaces and the hotel rooms.
This is an unusually explicit example of current interest in architecture as a contributory part of a landscape, rather than an imposition on it. The judges admired the clarity of approach, the way in which both aspect and prospect had been addressed, and how the project had been thought through in the round, from exterior appearance and treatment to the fine details of fixtures and fittings.
Hotel, Tudela, Navarre, Spain
Architect: Emiliano López & Mónica Rivera Arquitectos, Navarre
Project team: Mónica Rivera, Emiliano López, Gillermo Zuaznabar, María Eugenia Seligra, Carla Isern, Karen Pinheiro, Gerard Bartomeu, Alba García
Photographs: José Hevia