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PhotographJOSÉ HEVIA

Mas EE, A Habitat for Ten Generations

How much of the uncertainty of our lives can we predict when building our house? How can we include all future eventualities in an open ended design that can accommodate them all? We learn from the surrounding masos to build a house that will easily be transformed by its inhabitants daily, seasonal and lifetime changing needs. A center that will outlive them, and become the place where their kin can go back to.


41°14’49.2″N 1°14’53.3″E Vallmoll is a small town in the Alt Camp, close to Valls. It is placed around a hill, with its castle on top. The site is on a new suburban area, surrounded by farms, the Vallmoll creek and the Ermita del Roser -transformed by Jujol- on the south and east, and detached houses on the north and west. It is quite common that people spend weekends and summer holidays in small country houses spread along this rural land. Some of them have been passed from generation to generation, and it is where families grow their vegetables and celebrate the calçotades, a culinary ritual around tender onions and strong red wine drunk with a porró.

First phase 2014-2016

Second phase 2018-2021


Elena wants  a house that can be built in several phases. In 2015, a maset -small weekend cabin- to cook calçotades and costellades. In 2020 a mas for her, Eduard and their three kids, that can also host friends and grandmother’s visits. In 2030, a house for each son might be added, and the grandmother might move to the ground floor.  They need to have a twenty year plan that can foresee the evolution of her habitat, and that at the same time allows the maximum possibilities. They need a plan that includes uncertainty and anticipation. The first phase should be as inexpensive as possible, so they don’t need to borrow money for that. It is just a tiny weekend hideout. It is also an outdoors classroom for her two kids, so they can experience and learn all nature’s processes.

First phase.

Second phase.

Calçotades (cooking tender onions on an open fire) are an old tradition originated in that area. It will be a central outdoors activity in the first phase of the house.


The plot is surrounded on the west and north by suburban row houses that are a consequence of the Spanish Destruction Boom of the 2000s, and on the east and south by farms and old country houses. This house wants to befriend both, but learns from the farms and the timeful way of these country houses built without any architect’s involvement.

Everybody knows that when building something, it is important to put the money in the right places. This is even more relevant in low budget commissions. Instead of installing regenerative energy devices, it would be better in the long term to develop an efficient conservative and selective weather system. Cork is a natural product, that provides good insulation, protection from the rain and porosity at the same time. There used to be some old brick kilns in the area but they all shut down in recent years. It is easier to look for standardised materials and construction systems, so everybody can build it. Concrete blocks are a good option for they are fast and cheap to build and they have a kind porous quality.


When self-build is not an option, which strategies can we develop in order to be able to help Elena and Eduard to build their own house with no debt, slowly, spending only what they can save -their excedents?


Can we plan a habitat not just for one or two, but for ten generations? A place that becomes the center of the world for each one of them? Our task here is to help them build a place and time they can always go back to. The surrounding masos are a clear example on how human habitats are in constant transformation. Each important change in one family’s life, or from one generation to another, altered the construction.

We are developing an open system that allows as many future eventualities as possible, in such a way that each step is complete in itself, and only a few elements can be moved from one chapter to the other: space stays and grows. Needs and times change.  A home meant to last and adapt to ten generations. It cannot be a masia, but it learns from it. Therefore we must use a very common construction system, that will be known in 20 years, but that can also be easily substituted by another. The interior is very small, we try to give as much outdoor habitats as possible: porches, patios, terraces, galleries, shades, orchards, playgrounds, huts. We work with chapters of a construction process that has a continuity, not with independent phases. So the materialization will be a constant process, and we will just appear three times in it.

A house for several decades and generations.

Foreseeing irreversibility is the most effective way to approach future uncertainty.

First phase. 2014-2016.

In this chapter we explore the conditions of the smallest, cheapest, most versatile house possible. Bringing all legal requirements to the limits, questioning even the most obvious technical and services solutions. Most physiological elements can be easily taken out and moved to a different part of the house in the next decades. The rest stay in place so she only needs to spend money once.

Window=Door possibilities: Some windows might become doors, or just thresholds, in the future. Some might get a new floor next to them. In order to facilitate the next phase materialization, each new structure will relate to the existing ones thru empty space, by discontinuity.


After the first phase structure is finished, it will take some years for the future trees to grow tall and wide enough to give shade in summer. On the mean time, we have designed the lightest possible shade, that has the exact same volume and position as the next phase construction, so the EEs can start experiencing that location, sizes, orientations and views, and figure out how they foresee their live there. During our holidays, we met and assembled the structure together:


José Hevia. 1 September 2016.



On 2018, Elena and Eduard called us. They wanted to start working on the second phase. Martina, their daughter, was born a few months before. So their needs had substantially changed since the first phase. This tested the robustness of the long term plan we had envisaged together. An almost identical body would be built on the south end of the plot. On the ground floor, a new kitchen. On the first floor, a play room for the kids.


Second phase. Ground floor.

Second phase. First floor.

Second phase. Roof.

Second phase. East West section.

Second phase. North South section.

A second skin of thermoclay provides the daily and seasonal balance between thermal inertia and thermal insulation necessary in this latitude. Between the two main structural living concrete block cores and this skin, a variety of outdoor terraces, porches and thresholds gives almost double inhabitable space with no extra cost.


The cork facade was in very good shape five years after its installation.

In the first phase, the foundations were widened outwards to welcome eventual new walls on future building chapters.

25 June 2021

25 June 2021


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.