urrezkoenea borja izagirre   I  edorta subijana A treasure has appeared on a wide, peaceful field which goes down to the Bay of Biscay. Rays of light turn the concrete walls into gold. It seems like they've been there for years and years, but they haven't. This little treasure was built recently by “Peña Ganchegui y Asociados” (1) and the house is called Urrezkoenea ("The Golden House). We can categorize what this young group of architects has achieved as landscaping. The house is its own surroundings. Its setting is its strong point. Far from shade, influenced by the sunlight's desire for heat, the concrete walls adapt to the downward slope. It looks like one of the bunkers you could see on our coast's cliffs, the building is half buried. That's why it isn't easy to find it: while it's hidden from walkers, it opens up to the sea, like the Imanolena house at Mutriku (2). Based on the place's topographical characteristics, this house plays with the earth's surface to turn this everyday house, which looks out onto the sea, into a magic hiding place under the earth. There are no straight walls. There are no sharp angles; the only perpendicular angle is that between the horizon and the vertical walls.

The house and garage spaces are separated by a ramp. The garage is behind the house, underground in the hill. So the house gets sunlight from the south and the west. In principle, any sort of walkway could be built on this field, it would also have to go through the house in order to make the way of life understandable. The pedestrians' entrance, instead of being up the ramp, is up a small covered path. This way, in a ceremonial way, and at the highest level, it shows us the amazing landscape that the north has to offer us: the Bay of Biscay. Then, after turning 180º, some stairs go down to the pedestrians' entrance. With the change in the level of the earth, it is clear that the architects wanted to make a visual statement with the horizon (3).

The house is separated into two floors: most houses are separated into day and night areas. Here, on the other hand, the distribution is based on the seasons: the lower floor opens out to the north, giving the chance to enjoy its garden in the summer. To escape from the cold winds of the winter and the autumn, on the other hand, the ground floor (entrance) brings in the western sunshine; while the bedrooms there face north, the living room's wide windows look onto the Bay of Biscay. The lower floor kitchen and bedrooms embrace the living room, on the lower floor, and it converts into a marvelous round swimming pool. This new building is positioned on this slope like a rock pierced with cavities of light.
The whole building wants to be a "forest house", keeping the characteristics of the place itself rather than those of a house. It was all built using the same materials: grass on the covering surfaces, wooden floors and concrete on the outside walls.

In the same way that a stage waits for the moment when the play starts, Urrezkoenea waits for the sea storms, the thunder and the first lights of morning. Right there, the noise of the waves, the clouds, the rain, the warmth of the sun, the seagulls' cries and the rough, harsh north wind are the main characters.

Project leaders Rocío Peña and Mario Sangalli
Collaborators: Anabel Varona, Edorta Subijana and Josemari López.

1 Peña Ganchegui & Asociados Architects 2010 COAVN - EHAEO prizes were not awarded in the house category, but this project was a finalist.

2 Luis Peña Ganchegui built Imanolena in 1964. It too is set on a downward slope, looking onto the Bay of Biscay. Here too the covering surfaces are very important. This modern typology has the appearance of a place of shelter, the central patio structures the whole house around it, giving warmth to all the areas.

3 Luis Peña Ganchegui used a similar scheme to build the Donostia Tenis Plaza in 1975.