Ancient Galician granite conceals a rustic but refined architects’ bolthole
Architect Jamie Fobert’s residential output has won multiple accolades. The Levring House, a complex multistorey modern mansion in London’s Bloomsbury, was a RIBA National Award winner in 2015; while the Luker House in Barnes, with its restrained mix of polished concrete, plaster and timber, received a RIBA Regional Award the previous year. The prize for his latest project, designed with his partner Dominique Gagnon and situated on the edge of a nature reserve in the Galicia region of Spain, is that the pair will get to live in it themselves, at least some of the time. ‘It’s our getaway,’ says Fobert. ‘We feel ourselves relax the minute we get to Vigo, the nearest airport.’
The couple came across a ruin of a house outside the small town of Aldán back in 2004. ‘We were trying to find a beach and stumbled across it,’ says Fobert. ‘We were both entranced. I thought that was the end of it, but Dom is very tenacious.’ The house’s ownership was traced to the proprietor of a local restaurant, who eventually agreed to sell in 2010, though planning permission wasn’t granted until 2013. By July 2016, the house was sufficiently complete for Fobert and Gagnon to sleep there for the first time. Twelve years of development does suggest tenacity, indeed.
What is so striking about the house today is how little of it is on view in its lush surroundings of vines, canes, and sandy paths. In that respect, it is quite as the pair found it, with two original exterior walls – made of chunks of granite – kept in place, and the roof, which was long gone, replaced with locally produced tiles over chestnut, the local wood, which is exposed inside.
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