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The Other House, A Cardboard Habitat

Survival. How to live in an old rented house in Porrera which is only 5ºC warmer than the outside in winter, without leaving any scars in the building? By building a cardboard realm within.

Sections. How to sit in chairs designed by other people but that are too expensive to buy? By reproducing its sections with the leftover materials from that realm.

Flexible chairs. How to build chairs that adapt to your weight? By testing and testing and breaking them until you find the minimal solution that works.

There’s nothing like living in a 150 year old town house to learn the advantages and downsides of local traditional construction. In summer and winter, inner conditions were more comfortable than those outside, but in spring and autumn, due to the big heat absorption of its walls, it was the opposite. Some simple solutions had to be found in order to have a more active regulation of this micro weather.

Porrera is located in the Priorat, amongst low hills. Its climate is slightly more continental than the one in el Camp, with hotter summers and much colder winters. As it was a rental house, where no structure or enclosure could be altered, these solutions had to be reversible, light and cheap. The system we developed allowed fire wood to last three winters instead of the one that was  initially planned.

The budget was almost zero, there was some time available. So a self-built strategy had to be chosen. But the dwellers were not bricoleurs, although they enjoyed working with their hands on the weekends.

Techniques had to be very simple too. No special tools had to be bought, and no craft skills were required. Scissors and glue were preferred to hammer and nail, bricks, wood or mortar. For the price of an IKEA chair, we got 1000 m2 of cardboard.

The Campboards turnt the plywood guest hut into a recording booth.

With it we built chairs, lounge chairs, several sofas, a guest room, even a guitar. We drew very little. It was an experimentation with direct, as rough as possible, decisions.

We explored the physical qualities of cardboard, which can be easily bent, cut, folded. It has also quite good insulation properties. It is light and quite strong if used in the proper ways. It also gives a warm, calm light, and absorbs sounds in such a way as to strengthen the silence in our town.

Most of these inhabitable furniture was built on weekends from 2009 to 2012. The first guest room was built on a Saturday in autumn 2009, with the help and generosity of Gerard Fernández marmolejo and Dídac González.

In 2011 we built a guest hut, this time with plywood boards that were leftovers of a construction site, and were initially used as tables. As dwellers, we have all the time to observe, think and learn better ways of living in a place. As architects, we have to be faster. Dwelling is a primary fountain of improvement for architects. Observation, a critical spirit and empathy are the others.

The day we left the house, it was cleaner and emptier than we found it. These boards have been transformed into the doors and furniture of our new home by the sea. Furniture was moved to our office and is still in use, either to sit down on or as material for the models of our new projects.

Jean Prouvé Antony Lounge Chair Reinterpretation.

Jean Prouvé Antony Lounge Chair Reinterpretation.

Jean Prouvé Antony Lounge Chair Reinterpretation.

Poul Kjærholm PK 22 Reinterpretation.

Poul Kjærholm PK 22 Reinterpretation.

Flexible Rebar Chair n.1

Flexible Rebar Chair n.2

Flexible Rebar Chair n.3

The house is facing the dry Cortiella river.


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.