Nestled amongst the Pyrenees mountains, on either side of the border between France and Spain, lies the breathtaking Basque country. The Basque people date to the Lower Palaeolithic period and little is known of this autonomous community prior to the Roman Empire’s occupation. Following centuries of unrest, the Basque region is known today for its fierté that lies in its distinct customs, culture, language, cuisine and breathtaking landscapes.
Once in the Basque region, a distinct architecture can be recognized. The traditional baserri Basque-style home coats the landscape. Found both in Spain and France, the baserri is a half-timbered or stone farmhouse. Characteristics of this dwelling are sloping roofs, a three-storied layout and internal wooden walls. Each region in the Basque country has its own interpretation of this traditional baserri structure. For example, the Biarritz region was heavily influenced by Napoleon III, and due to this, you will find many seaside castles and mansions built in the Napoleon-esque 19th-century style. Meanwhile, in Hossegor, Art Deco heavily influenced the region’s traditional architecture.
Today, the Basque region is heavily visited by tourists and is becoming an increasingly desirable vacation spot. As wealthy foreigners and locals continue to build, we see a new wave of contemporary designs within the traditional Basque landscape. Listed below are six buildings all located in the Basque region. The following six projects demonstrate that when a deep appreciation for Basque heritage is present, contemporary architecture can harmonize with the traditional landscape.
When exploring the more recent architectural builds within the Basque landscape, it is evident that design teams are highly cognizant of the history and rich culture that lies within the Basque country. At first glance, contemporary structures can often appear to puncture the traditional architectural landscape. However, when examined closely one can see a beautiful and careful harmony between the old and the new, which is formed through a deep appreciation of Basque heritage.
Located in the posh city of Biarritz is a residential home surrounded by richly-foliated land. The home is a relaxed, spacious contemporary living environment. Composed of two home volumes joined together, the two spaces are connected through a covered garage. Both volumes come complete with sliding window systems which allow for an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. The home is tucked away from the street, which allows the dwellers to bask in the outdoors in total privacy.
A multi-unit housing project near the city of Bayonne redefines what it means to live in the countryside. Understanding how intrinsic the outdoors is to country living in the Basque region, GARDERA-D ensured that substantial outdoor living spaces were incorporated into each unit. Large balconies and a communal open staircase allow residents to remain connected to the exterior countryside. Moreover, richly foliated plants are placed on each outdoor terrace to further the residents’ connection with the Basque flora and fauna.
This family dwelling is deeply connected to the outdoors and offers a defined living flow. The home is defined by linear movement that separates the different spaces while simultaneously connecting them in a practical manner. The layout commences with the private spaces (bedrooms and bathrooms), then moves into communal living (kitchen and dining areas). The communal areas then lead to a large outdoor garden, which extends the living space outdoors. The home is sensibly designed without compromising its connection to the outdoors.
Situated in Anglet, France is House R, a contemporary residential dwelling. The home sits on a narrow plot of land and takes the form of a rectangle. The design’s careful orientation along a North-South axis optimizes the sun’s exposure, filling the residence with natural light. House R spans two stories, with the bedrooms and play area on the upper floor, and the main living spaces on the ground level. The exterior façade is made of wooden stripped blocks, some of which protrude out to create cantilevered zones for balconies and terrace coverage.
This wellness and medical center sits on a plot of land that adopts the form of a drop of water — a symbolic shape that speaks to the surrounding oceanside landscape. The center is located near Biarritz’s new Kleber neighborhood and offers a series of services — accounting, dental, medical and wellness. The entire complex is covered in a fishnet façade which serves as a protective barrier as well giving the edifice a distinctive visual appearance. Its singularity to the surrounding landscape was purposefully done in the hopes of deforming the traditional landscape in a poetic and visually appealing manner.
This concept design for an extension at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum demonstrates a careful understanding of tradition fused with contemporary design principles. This extension design secedes the museum’s previous extensions that took place in 1945, 1970 and 2001. The plan includes reviving the original building to its old glory and adding a new atrium and pavilion. The floating pavilion design is sleek and reorients the museum towards the city of Bilbao. The new extension stands prominently but equally compliments the restored original edifice. The new addition works to create a welcoming space where one can absorb Basque history and art.
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