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Re-reading Stories of houses in Spain Everyday life can generate extraodinary architecture

Casa en la Moraleja by Miguel Fisac

Vera Marschall


1. Story of „Casa en la Moraleja“


2. Video work


3. Action of the Client


4. Mircoarchitecture


5. Transformation of „Casa en la Moraleja“


6. Workshop


7. Enlightenment


8. Manifesto




Chapter 1 Story of „Casa en la Moraleja“

Miguel Fisac

Church of the Theological College of the Dominicans, Alcobendas, 1955/60.

Miguel Fisac with his concrete „bones“

Facade Edificio IBM, Madrid, 1967

Miguel Fisac (1913-2006) From a very early age, Miguel Fisac had undertaken a search for personal references. He combined his architecture studies, which were interrupted by the Civil War, with a deep search into the Christian Spirit. At that moment architecture mainly emerged as a question of monumental styles that mourned the Spanish Empire. When in 1942 Fisac graduated from the School of Architecture in Madrid, he told us that “as we were only ten who graduated, there was a lot to be done. A month later I was commissioned a work and I plunged in without thinking.” Already in his first project, transforming a lecture theatre into a chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit, Fisac started his experimental research. Very soon he gained experience from the huge amount of work he had, “because there was nothing”, putting into practice his innumerable inventions: Fisac’s brick, his first patent from 1951, which managed with its inclination to hide the joint to the next one in order to seal and isolate more efficiently, his window systems, the concrete “bones” (structure), the stands for lamps and furniture and the flexible moulds made of plastic and rope that gave the concrete a soft aspect. The 1950’s was a period of intense activity which came to revolutionise the facets of the Spanish churches, until in 1955 when he left Opus Dei. That same year Fisac started his journey alone around the world. It was as if he was embarking upon a new search for references, visiting many works of architecture. Disappointed by the purist vision of the Modern Movement, which Fisac criticised as being “inhuman rationalism”, it was in this journey that he discovered Asplund’s work and Japanese architecture. By continuously rethinking, Fisac formulated a methodology of how to start a project. With the questions: What for? Where? How? as well as an “I don’t know what”, he started a series of reflections which had to be responded to in order to achieve a work of architecture. For his work he bacame honerd with the National Prize for Architecture (2003) and the Golden Medal for Architecture (1994). narrated by: Halldóra Arnardóttir

Casa de la Moraleja (1973) It was in the beginning of the 1970’s when the engineer Pascual de Juan Zurita decided to build a house, for him, his wife, his seven children and his mother, in a wood of oak trees close to the airport of Barajas North of Madrid on a 2600m² site. He chose the architect Miguel Fisac, who was then well known for his many patents, more than a hundred newspaper articles, numerous lectures, and had already built a substantial amount of work. Despite the modest commission, the client managed to persuade the famous architect. Fisac accepted with the condition that he could respect the oak trees to the maximum and could take this opportunity to research further with his inventions and with the engineer’s knowledge about the use of the concrete. [...] How? [...]From the entrance hall, one is led into a big common space, which is without any partition walls but organised by the soft curves of the facade. It consists of a living room and an area for conversations and listening to music by the chimney, both with a view to the south. At the other end, with a view to the north towards Guadarrama, there is the area to play bridge and the dining hall. From here one has a direct access to the nucleus of the kitchen, a laundry and an ironing room, the servant’s bedroom and a patio, which has an independent entrance and includes the laundry line. Privacy for the office and the family’s bedrooms was achieved by a covered patio. Due to the inclination of the site, the access to the basement is also at ground level. Here the garage, the chauffeur’s bedroom, a play area for the children, and changing rooms for the swimming pool were arranged. To enclose these spaces, Fisac made use of one of his inventions which enlisted the flexible qualities of the concrete. In the house in La Moraleja, white concrete was poured into flexible plastic moulds in order to transmit the quality of the paste and weight of the concrete, leaving its tactile appearance soft and spongy. Additionally, these concrete panels were especially designed so as to incorporate double-glazed windows that were fastened with neopreno and thus they would be sound proof against the noise of the flying aeroplanes.[...] What Miguel Fisac designed for the enjoyment of the family was “a fraction of humanised air.” narrated by: Halldóra Arnardóttir

Paula (10) The engineer Pascual de Juan Zurita and his wife really enjoyed living in the house that Fisac had created for them. It was a perfect house for them and their seven children. Finally they had enough space to play and a seperate room for every single one of them. Everyone lived in harmony. After a couple of years, the children were no children anymore. They started to marrie and move to other houses with their own familys. But all of them always were thinking of „Casa en la Moraleja“ as „Home“. Although most of them didn´t live near by, the house was never empty. There was always someone on a visit. On holidays the house seemed to burst from all the people: Pascual and his wife, the seven children and the 15 grandchildren. Several years later Pascuals wife died. Eeryone was really sad, but most of them all Pascual. He was living alone than. It seemed like he never could recuperate his lost. He died two years later. The big question was: Who will inherit the house? They decided to give iit to the youngest brother, because he had fife children all of them younger than 12 years. He was married to a beautiful russian woman and they were a charming family. The house was filled with life again. But suddenly.. Paula one of the girls with only eight years, started to act in an unusual way and the family was very concerned . The doctor said, it was something unknown and strange, especially for a little girl. The diagnostic: Shizophrenia At first the family was shocked, but than thy started an intense reseach to help this little girl. They talked to many specialist and realized that it is not impossible to live with shizophrenia. Two years later she is almoste living a normal life. The father contact us to help the family adapting the house to their particular way of living. So let´s get started!


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder often characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, auditory hallucinations, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and lack of motivation. Genetics and early environment, as well as psychological and social processes, appear to be important contributory factors. Some recreational and prescription drugs appear to cause or worsen symptoms. The mainstay of treatment is antipsychotic medication. Counseling, job training and social rehabilitation are also important in treatment. In more serious cases—where there is risk to self or others—involuntary hospitalization may be necessary. Symptoms begin typically in young adulthood, and about 0.3–0.7% of people are affected during their lifetime. The disorder is thought to mainly affect the ability to think, but it also usually contributes to chronic problems with behavior and emotion. People with schizophrenia are likely to have additional conditions, including major depression and anxiety disorders, social problems, such as long-term unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are common. The average life expectancy is ten to twenty five years less than the average life expectancy.

Chapter 2 Video work

Video 1

This Video is a personal reflection of being far away from home.

This is the corner in front of my flat. The traffic there is really loud. Even when I close my windows I can here the cars blear outside. The feeling of being deaf: In the beginning of the Erasmus period I was overwhelmed by all the different languages that were spoken around me.

The feeling of being dumb: As especially my spanish but also my english was ery rudimental in the beginning, I had problems to express my self. I felt speachless.

The silence in the nature of the mountains came like a shock for me. This was when I realized how mutch I was missing a silent privat space to rest from the noise in the city. The „House of Santa Claus“ is a symbol for the ideal house. In „Casa de Retiro Espiritual“ the 12 meter high walls demonstrate the fact, that this is a house, while the house itself is burried in the ground.

The house touched me, because it promised to fulfill my request for a save haven in the idyllic nature of Andalúcia.

Video 2

This video tells us how Fisac´s way of working was very inspiring for us.

That is how normal architects do it...

This is how Miguel Fisac Serna did it...

For this house he developed a new technique of working with concrete, to make it look soft like furniture.

We used this spirit of trying new ways in facade techniques and developed our own system.

Chapter 3 Action of the Client

One day in Paula´s life

As the girl is schizophrenic, her brain creats impressions and mixs them with real ones. In the end she has problems to dicide what is real or unreal.

Paula is playing in the studio

Paula has visual and audiative hallucinations. Futhermore she is often accompanied by her imaginary friend.

Chapter 4 Micro Architecture

A human is a god, while he is dreaming. Friedrich Hölderlin (german poet) We started our work on the micro architecture, by thinking about the positiv thing of Paula´s disease. Her mind is able to create it´s own world, without questioning if that is the truth. She can be the god in her own world. It is basicly ruled by her emotions and feellings. Fear: Is a distressing emotion aroused by impending, danger, evil, pain, etc. She feels fear, when she hear the voices in her head, have scary hallucination or when she believe, that somone follows her. A good help for her fears are a calm melody and a security blanket. Confusion: She can not distinguish between real and unreal, so she is confused of the voices in her head and the characteristics of her disorder. In form of expression, like painting, making music or dancing, she can help herself.

Courage: It´s the quality of mind or spirit to meet or face courageously difď€ cultes, danger, fear, etc. She must be brave, cause the treatment and evolution of her illness, her life itself and in the socity and when she want to live a normal childhood. When she improves her strengths and abilities and know ways to express and grow up, than she can be like a normal person. Happiness: The state of well being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. She is happy, when she play with other children, share time with her family and is free to do whatever she wants. It help her, when she has a safe and comfortable space to grow. Love: Is a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child or friend. She feel love in cause of the protection and support of her family. The security blanket gives her a feeling of psychokogical security and represent the protection and support of her family.

A human is a god, while he is dreaming. Friedrich H枚lderlin (german poet)

The Team: M贸nica Hilgado Sandra Kesselmeier Vera Marschall

We produced a two-sided blanket. One side has an even reflective surface. The other side has a fluffy looking surface. But as we soaked the cotton with glue it got hard after a while. In the end it was a strong but still flexible structure.

Chapter 5 Transformation of „Casa en la Moraleja“

We tried to reconstruct the house in a way that brings up the psoitive power of our disease.

Here you can see some first considerations on our way to the final project. This model shows the idea of a structure that is changeable at every moment in every way.

One of the primary ideas was, to split the building in very small Elements that the client can rebuild in any possible way.

Finally we choose the wooden parts of the outside walls for our transformation. As that the walls, which funktions it is to seperate the inside from the outside are now building the connection between this both.

With opening some parts of the outside wall also the inside of the building gets more fluent.

We designed three different systems how to open this parts of the wall. They react to the sound, light and emotions inside and outside the building.

Acording to our microarchitecture, we wanted to develope our architecture in a way, that reacts to the emotions of the client. Thus the clinent can change the aspect of opening to, and connection with the environment.

We created a special tree house, a privat space for the girl. It is growing out of the fassade of the building. In the tree there is a wind chimes that produces a sound that is realy familiar to her and in that way calms her down. This space is more close. She can hide herself there and get invisible between the leaves.

The treehouse is constructed in a way, that it can grow together with the living tree.

Through the intelligent facade systems the light sizuation inside is constantly changing.

Chapter 6 Workshop

In the workshop we observed how some aspects in architecture have changed in the last 500 years.

Based on this observations we made predictions about how architecture and with it life will change in the next 500 years.

One thing we observed was how the relationship between inside and outside the house has changed.

A point that is strongly related to how the techniqui of glas and windows has developed.

Until the 1990 the size of windows has grown bigger and bigger.

In our transformation of „Casa en la Moraleja“ we made the connection with the surrounding not just visualy but we also let the inand outside melt together.

Chapter 7 Enlightment

Things I have learned this semester

Miguel Fisac: It is amazing what architectural effects it can have, if you try new ways of construction, if you have the courage to do things no one else does.

Dr. Javier Sรกnchez Merina: If you want to find new ways of construction, you have to really understand your working material. As more you know about it, the more amazing things you can create. If your client ask for a cat, give him a rabbit.

Barrio Santa Cruz, Alicante: One schould neither underrate the effect of complex urban structures nor the power of colours.

La Mezquita de C贸rdoba At my University we often get told, that clear open spaces are good spaces. But the moment I entered the Mesquita in C贸rdoba I felt the intence magic of this very complex space.

It is at the same time wide and open but also unclear and mysterious. With every step you take, there is a completly new suprising view.

I might have finally understood Robert Venturi麓s theory of Complexity.

Chapter 8 Manifesto

Architecture is dynamic. Architecture is alive.

Not just the style of architecture is changing all the time, even if a house is built it is never finished. There will always be changes and no house stays for eternity as it was built. The change could be caused by new users who have different requirements in living culture, family structure or even new climat conditions. If an architect designs a building he should keep in mind that this is an important issue. To make an alteration easier, we should start to rethink our design prozess and develope flexible structures.

Bibliography Informes de la construcci贸n 1976 n潞 279 javier-sanchez-merina.html guel-fisac/ page/2/ N03/6210887290

Manifesto Vera M.  
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