Dominic Bradbury, Journalist & Writer


Hidden away among trees and lush greenery, the Silicone House is an oasis of quiet and calm on the outskirts of Madrid. It is so much of a sanctuary that architect and resident Josť Selgas describes it as almost 'dangerous', as the temptation is simply to stay put rather than venturing out into the city. That temptation is made even stronger by the fact that the practice that Selgas founded with his partner, Lucia Cano, has its offices just a short walk away, also hidden among the enticing combination of pine and plane trees, laurels and acacias.

It was the landscape of the place and the idea of a retreat within the mass of the city that drew Selgas and Cano to the site. When they built the house, which they also share with their two children, they were determined to respect these natural charms as much as they possibly could.

'We wanted to protect and preserve the trees and the landscape and that drove the design of the house,' says Selgas, who co-founded Selgascano Architects just over ten years ago. 'We didn't really worry about the form of the house but positioned it where the land permitted us to put it.'

A natural clearing within this generous parcel of land allowed enough room for two interconnected pavilions, which were partly sunken down into the gently sloping soil. Not a single tree was felled, while the formation of the two complimentary wings allowed for an enhanced sense of connection with the landscape. Large banks of acrylic windows within both structures allow the family a very direct view out into the grounds, while also tying in neatly with terracing and decking around the house.

'it was also important that we could use the roofs of the two pavilions as terraces as well,' says Selgas, who coated the pavilions in a heavy duty layer of vibrantly coloured rubber made from recycled car tyres. 'We normally use them in the summer, when the trees are in leaf, because that's when the house tends to disappear behind the trees. So it can be much more interesting to go up onto the roof and look out and over the trees and you also get a wonderful view of the sunset.'

Each of the two pavilions has a slightly different feel and treatment, best suited to daytime and nighttime living. The orange coated pavilion is dominated by the main living spaces and the kitchen, while the navy blue belvedere contains the bedrooms.

'The two parts are different in various subtle ways,' Selgas says. 'We have rubber floors in the blue part of the house and linoleum in the other part. In the daytime pavilion we have underfloor heating and in the other one we have used reclaimed radiators.'

The most dramatic space has to be the open plan living room and dining area, with the two sections of the space lightly differentiated by changes in floor level and the use of bespoke bookcases as dividing lines. The living room is made all the more cohesive by space saving ideas such as the fitted banquettes around the side of the room, positioned either side of a sculpted fireplace designed by Selgascano.

Within the ceiling, a series of bubble skylights bring in extras sunshine. 'They are rather like eyes,' says Selgas. 'It was very important to us to have these skylights in this part of the house. The form of the bubbles reflects not just the sky but also the movement of the clouds and the trees in the wind. You see all of this reflected in the skylights.'

[The use of acryic for the windows instead of glass also helps define the unique character of the house. The imperfections and slight movement of the acrylic establishes a blurred, almost magical quality to the vista and enriches the various reflections and visual tricks played by the windows according to their varying positions and angles in the house.]

Yet Selgas is distinctly modest about the delights of the house and the interiors, which are a wonderful blend of bespoke creations, architectural salvage and mid-century modern gems. For him, it is the trees and the natural beauty of this enclave that are the true glories, shifting and changing with the rhythms of the seasons.

'The surprise for us about this house is the landscape, because every day is different,' he says. 'You are always connected to the outside, wherever you are. Nighttimes in the house are very beautiful too, with the moon and even with the artificial lighting and all the reflections of the light in the windows. It is an oasis.'

Selgascano Architects – - + 34 913 076 481

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