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CollaboratorsJOSEP ANGLÈS





PhotographJOSÉ HEVIA

Cine Lidia, Self-built Microweathers

How to make an old, abandoned small town cinema inhabitable? By reopening the former windows, and attaching new rooms to each one of them, which become inhabitable thresholds. Then leaving the rest of the huge air volume as almost an outdoor. A simple light timber frame system is implemented so that the local carpenter and Lidia can easily build it themselves.


41°10’05.5″N 0°58’26.8″E. Riudecols is on a sloppy side of a big creek valley, facing south. Its houses sit on this slope in such a way that their front and back street are in two different floors.

This is the case of the old house where Lidia wanted to live: it has two entrances in two floors. The big inhabitable space is on the third floor.

This orographical characteristic has brought narrow streets, parallel to the hill, where sunlight has trouble getting in. The old cinema is facing a square, where the entrance is, which allows air and light to come in from the east. The main entrance is on this square, which could become a place for Lidia to spend time outdoors, by herself or with friends.


One summer day in 2003, Lidia asked us if we could have a look at an old abandoned cinema where she would like to build her home and studio, to see whether it was in good shape and her dream was feasible. Her initial constraint was that buying and upcycling it had to cost no more than a regular apartment price in town.


While inside the big dark volume we found on our first visit, we were equally worried and excited: although the structure of the building was in good shape, its physiology was far from inhabitable. But it was a place full of possibilities, even with a very low budget.

Before becoming a cinema, this used to be the town’s lodge. Its 1480 m3 upper floor volume where hosts used to sleep or watch movies had all of its windows blocked. It was a huge dark space.

The materials we use have to be light, easy to move in and transform, cheap and durable. Wood seems an obvious choice.


What needs to be done?

  1. To cure the building. Reinforce the structure where necessary.
  2. To improve thermal comfort. To find a mechanism to make indoor air inhabitable. It is not feasible to build a single climate with 1480 m3.
  3. To lighten the construction. The change from inn to cinema left all windows walled. We reopen them to let light back in.


The proposal arises from two premises: to safeguard Lidia’s health and economy. How to live in this old cinema feeling well (to get a good sunlight dose, not to get cold in winter, to rest…) and spending the minimum money (during the construction process and after that)?

How will we do it?

To build a house inside a house. We differentiate two kinds of airs: a more exterior one (workshop) and a more interior one (house). The rooms are spread all over the building, always stuck to the outside through a window for ventilation, sunlight, and capturing the sun’s heat in winter.

To build micro weathers. Each space can be independently heated or ventilated, while heating or ventilating the big hall. These rooms are inhabitable windows that lighten the inside. There is also a new big window facing south from where you can look at the mountains and rest Lidia’s sight after a long day of work.

To build it themselves. In order to lower the cost, we take light timber frame structure and work on making it as simple as possible to assemble, so Lidia -later with the help of her new partner Xavi- can learn how to transform, add or move rooms according to her changing needs over time.

Although it is not a common technique in our territory, any carpenter is able to learn it in a short time. It worked.

The entire project has been assembled by the carpenter, his son and Lidia.


Josep Maria, the carpenter, built a first prototype in order to check the time it would take him to build all the rooms, and to give a more precise and fair price. It ended up being faster than he had first foreseen.

So to keep the budget as low as possible, Lidia helped the carpenter and his son in the assembly and varnishing of all the wood panels.


José Hevia

In January 2010, four years after Lidia had moved in, we invited José Hevia to document how she was inhabiting that place together with her partner Xavi.


When Lidia moved in, the house was not finished yet. The carpenter was still working in the attic structure. This house, as all houses, is never finished. Lidia and Xavi keep transforming it according to their needs and possibilities.

In 2007 we lent her a videocamera and she recorded her life for a whole day:

In August 2011 Lidia called us back. She wanted to build a new living room, turn her former studio into a guests room, and build a closet in the old living room, which would become their new studio. She asked us for some simple plans to guide them with sizes and the positions of things like doors. As they already had some experience from when they helped the carpenter, they built these new structures themselves and they cost less than 2500 euros.


In 2008, almost three years after Lidia had moved in, we asked her to draw her experience so far in the house. We presented these drawings at a young architect´s congress in Valencia. This is the result:


Search questions

As a consequence of our search as architects, we also produce understanding and knowledge made of words -written and spoken. This search revolves around twelve constant themes, questions we don’t have a definitive answer to yet. This knowledge is not just a by-product of our activity, but rather an instrumental part that develops simultaneously and is imbricated in building. Search Questions is our sisyphean effort to organize and share this knowledge while it's blossoming, fragile and unstable. By doing so, a more specific understanding, and more refined questions emerge.

1. Pequeñas Cabañas BIY

An exploration on children's innate drive and ability to build, and some huts that they can build together with grown-ups. Published by Editorial Gustavo Gili.

2. Endless beginnings

Graduation Ceremony. AAA. Aarhus, Denmark. September 2020.

Journal paper
3. OE House

ARQ 94. Universidad Católica de Chile. With Cristina Goberna and Urtzi Grau.

4. Open Process Ecosystems

Beyond Product Platforms for multi-storey habitats design and manufacturing. With Duncan Maxwell.

5. Subrural

An incipient theory of the subrural, first published in Catalan in AT magazine, edited by Nuria Casais and Ferran Grau.