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Location: Girona, Spain

Area: 440.0 sqm

Year: 2013


Architects: Co Govers and Joana Ramalhete/ZEST architecture

Construction: José Hortal Hortal

Photos by Eugeni Pons and Jesús Granada

An old stone-built ruin in a breathtaking setting, surrounded by 25 hectares of oak forest with distant views of the Mediterranean sea. Local building regulations stipulate that the building had to be rebuilt as it once was, but the owners were seeking a more spectacular and modern house.

Our work aimed to create a modern, luxury estate in an old stone envelope. We’ve opened the house up on all sides, letting the light flood in and bringing the views inside. The house sits on a steep incline and we’ve connected the house and garden on various levels.

When this was a farmhouse, traditionally the animals would have lived downstairs with the living spaces upstairs. We therefore chose to place the bedrooms on the lower level so they stay nice and cool in summer, and the living spaces on the first floor, to make best use of the views and to allow direct access to the newly created south facing part of the garden, with the swimming pool.

The design concept was to create a start contrast between the uneven old stone wall and the geometric new interventions, an effect heightened by the choice of materials. These were all chosen to integrate the house visually in its surroundings, and for their wabi-sabi, the way they become more beautiful over time.

The house is insulated to Passivhaus standards, using cork insulation produced from locally grown cork. These are set behind Claytec panels of clay and straw, making sure the old stone wall remains a breathable construction, while keeping the warmth in during winter and the heat out in summer. Natural Claytec plaster eliminates the need for paint, making the house an utterly non-chemical environment.

ZEST designed special sliding windows, which disappear into the wall when opened, so that the view towards the sea remains interrupted.

A natural pool with a plant and gravel filter system provides an additional spectacular view from the living spaces year round, and an oasis for swimming.

The house has a geothermal installation for heating and hot water, and stays pleasantly cool in summer wihout air conditioning, thanks to well designed cross ventilation through doors and dwindows. There is a plan for a future hybrid installation for the houses energy, consisting of solar planels plus a smal windmill, to take the house off the grid.

All water (including that from showers and loos) is recycled through a reedbed, after which the water is used to irrigate the garden. The garden was designed by Co Govers to be a waterwise garden, with species specifically suited to the Mediterranean climate, capable of withstanding drought. A large vegetable garden and orchard provides food year round for the owners.

ZEST architecture

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All images courtesy of ZEST architecture

ZEST architecture

Co Govers
Co Govers

ZEST architecture was founded in 2008 by the Dutch architect Co Govers (Masters in Architecture from TU Delft), after working with architects such as Max van Aerschot in the Netherlands and Josep Lluis Mateo in Spain. From the beginning, ZEST has focused on combining sustainability with natural elegance, which has always been an important aspect of Co’s work.



ZEST arquiitectura sostenible slp

Plaça Dones del 36 local 14

08012 Barcelona Spain

Tel. +34 932 186622


ZEST architecture