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Prefab House by MYCC, Cedeira, Spain

AR House 2011 Runner Up: surrounded by a grove of eucalyptus trees, the house sits lightly on a hillside with vistas down to the sea. Photography by Fernando Guerra

Inventively exploiting techniques of modular construction and prefabrication, this weekend house in rural Galicia was built in three months, trucked to the site and assembled in just three days.

Surrounded by a forest of eucalyptus trees, the house is located on a steep slope in a remote locale overlooking the ocean. The local agricultural vernacular of simple pitched roof structures determined the dwelling’s barn-like geometry, yet it is also a sophisticated piece of architecture that reinterprets tradition, construction and place in a rigorously contemporary manner.

The two main facades of the house are largely glazed, but the glass skin is also veiled with an outer layer of perforated Cor-ten panels. Cut into this rusting steel skin is a schematised representation of a forest silhouette, abstracting an image of the surrounding landscape.

Light filters through the arboreal openings, casting elongated shadows through the interior. The weathered, industrial quality of the Cor-ten is set off by smooth side walls clad in lightweight fibre cement panels. Their soft grey hue recalls the wood of the neighbouring eucalyptus trees.

Interior spaces are free-flowing and informal, to take advantage of sea and forest views. Living, dining, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom spaces are arranged on the ground floor, with a mezzanine tucked into the ‘attic’ above. This can be used as a guest bedroom, tai-chi space or play area for children.

The house is divided into six modules measuring approximately 6 x 3m (the maximum width that can be transported by trailer). The main living room comprises three modules linked together, while individual modules contain the bathroom and stair, and bedroom. The bedroom can be divided with a blind concealed in the ceiling, but this can also become a partition wall if a more permanent solution is needed.

The modules were fabricated at a construction company near Madrid. Each module has a basic structure of beams and galvanised steel columns and with floor and ceiling slabs made of composite decking and reinforced concrete. Walls are sandwich panels formed from two sheets of lacquered aluminium and an 80mm thick polyurethane web plate. After a trial assembly in the factory, the modules and roof trusses were dismantled to be shipped 700km to Galicia.

The jury were impressed by this intelligent and appropriate use of modular construction. And though it could be said to be efficiently manufactured rather than built, sitting lightly on its hillside site, the house still has a powerful poetic quality as the archetypal pavilion in the landscape.

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