The Stgilat Aiguablava villa designed by architect and founder of Cloud 9 studio, Enric Ruiz-Geli, is a pilot housing project based on “smart” Mediterranean architecture. It was built with leading-edge technology as well as digital and sustainable manufacturing, integrated with the environment in the Empordà valley and the Costa Brava region in Spain.
The Cloud 9 studio collaborated with the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California on the design of an ephemeral, experimental pavilion which stands adjacent to the house. This is defined as a “Mediterranean case study”.
-text by the authors
Stgilat Aiguablava villa located in Aiguablava, a town on Catalonia’s Costa Brava coast in Spain, is the latest project by architect Enric Ruiz-Geli and represents a model home which connects the most cutting-edge technology with the Mediterranean lifestyle.
For the main residence, the Catalan vault (Volta Catalana) has been reinvented using advanced fibreglass engineering while state-of-the-art materials have been used to create lightweight, sustainable structures.
A MEDITERRANEAN CASE STUDY
The main aim of this project isn’t to design a villa but to carry out a case study.
Ruiz-Geli references architects such as Richard Neutra and Eames helped him to define this concept. In Los Angeles in the 1950s, Richard Neutra established a new form of construction with prefabricated parts and rapid manufacturing and assembly. This inspired a revolution reducing costs and opening the market up to the middle class. Charles and Ray Eames introduced aluminium as a material into the production process of prefabricated parts.
In a similar way, Stgilat Aiguablava represents a pilot housing project based on a “smart” version of Mediterranean architecture. Leading-edge technology and digital and sustainable manufacturing integrated with the surrounding nature brings innovation to the Empordà valley and the Costa Brava, considering that the region’s landscape is an invaluable asset that provides a cultural backdrop.
The project’s client is a Central European family, passionate about Mediterranean culture and lifestyle, and whose priority was the quality of architecture and R+D+I (research, development and innovation) over luxury in order to achieve a space of well-being. With this in mind, Ruiz-Geli uses a holistic approach, presenting a style of architecture that evokes sensory and corporal experiences on every level.
THE MAIN RESIDENCE: THE REINVENTION OF THE CATALAN VAULT
The Catalan vault gives the main residence it’s structure – a large space, much like the Empordà farmhouses, that defines the house’s interior.
The innovation is in the continuous sweep of the curve of the Catalan vault, a technique that has extraordinary advantages. The Catalan vault is made of a Mediterranean material that works in compression, providing the house with great thermal mass, protecting the interior from external heat whilst enabling the house to retain heat in the winter. It is also a highly porous material, providing dwellers with superior natural breathing conditions. Lightweight and energy efficient arches have been designed using a minimal amount of materials.
The reinvention of the Catalan vault in this project has been done using advanced fibreglass engineering, while the challenge for artisan ceramist, Toni Cumella, has been to create ceramics for the vault that are in harmony with the surrounding nature.
The vault’s external facade adds to the landscape by following the curves of the surrounding mountains. The green tones of the exterior ceramics are integrated with the natural colours of the surrounding area. Inside, a special type of ceramic has been designed to achieve acoustics of unbeatable quality.
INTEGRATION OF THE LANDSCAPE AND LOCAL CULTURE: EMPORDÀ
The key to this project is its integration with the environment.
Architect Enric Ruiz-Geli, born in Figueres, a small city in the middle of the Catalan Empordà, establishes a dialogue with the landscape, culture and materials of the region in order to shape the project.
The ceramics, the warm Mediterranean materials, the freshness, the sun and shade, the colours, the terraces and the curves of the coastline are elements that have inspired and conditioned the design of the Stgilat Aiguablava villa.
The property’s wild garden has preserved the existing trees and the swimming pool collects rainwater, filtering it with natural processes. In this dialogue with the environment, the project provides sustainable and innovative architecture and digital manufacturing, bringing value to the region and embodying Mediterranean culture and its way of life.
THE EXPERIMENTAL PAVILION
The project includes an ephemeral and experimental pavilion dedicated to innovation.
Pavilion was designed by Enric Ruiz-Geli / Cloud 9 studio in collaboration with the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California – one of the best artistic centers in which director Zack Snyder as well as Apple, BMW and Tesla designers were trained. Professors David Mocarski, James Meraz, Jason Pilarski and Kenneth Cameron visited Barcelona with four of their students to oversee the construction.
Inspired by surrounding pine trees and designed based on prototypes, the pavilion is an inflatable structure. A smart, lightweight and ecological concrete is injected into this structure, giving it an organic shape.
The lightweight structure and the pavilion’s windows with natural pine resin filter allow us to create symbiotic relationships between technology and nature in order to achieve a deeper emotional connection, producing a space of refuge and privacy.
More than an architect, Enric Ruiz-Geli is a visual artist who seeks to break down the barriers between construction, space and experimentation. His professional career began in set and exhibition design, but since the foundation of his Cloud 9 studio, Ruiz-Geli has turned his mind to the development of sustainable architecture projects and has become an international benchmark for innovation and architectural research, with multiple awards in his name.
His discourse defends the relationship between technology, architecture, environmental awareness and a clear understanding of the environment in which buildings are constructed. He has given the lecture ‘It’s all about the particles’ in reference centres such as MIT, conferences such as EKODesign in Istanbul and events such as the International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors Associations meeting in Bangalore.
His studio has developed new materials in collaboration with construction companies, such as translucent concrete and a new ceramic coating and participates in professional networks that combat climate change. Among its architectural projects is the Villa Bio in Figueres, commended by the Chicago Athenaeum in 2007, the Thirst Pavilion at the Expo Zaragoza and the Media TIC Building in Barcelona, serving as the current headquarters of his Cloud 9 studio. He is currently working on a new CaixaForum centre in Valencia.
Facts & Credits
Project Name Stgilat Villa
Architectural Team Cloud 9 studio
Chief Architect Enric Ruiz Geli
Building Engineer Claudia Galicia
Engineer Daró La Bisbal
Layout BAC Engineering, Consultancy Group
Energy & Installations PGI Group
Acoustics David Casadevall
Home Automation LOXONE
Technical Consultant Jose Montsuñer
Fiberglass Engineer Florencio Solana
Photography Itot Produccions Jordi Alcalà, Gregori Civera
Experts Committee José María Torres Nadal, Esteve Bonell
Fiberglass R&B Composites
Ceramics Cerámica Cumella
Glass Vidres Berni
Garden Pedro Martín
Project Name Stgilat Pavilion
Architectural Team Enric Ruiz Geli/Cloud 9 studio in collaboration with ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California
Management David Mocarski, Nik Hafermaas
Professors James Meraz, Jason Pilarsky, Kenneth Cameron
Students Wen Han, Marc Dubui, Sean Chen, Andrew Walton
Artistic Collaboration Colin Honigman
Coordinators Elizabeth Collins, Regina Dowling, Ronit Droker