SOLO Pezo: an imposing brutalist house in Matarraña

SOLO Pezo is the first built project of the Solo Houses program, the inaugural architecture collection in Europe promoted by the gallery duo Christian Bourdais and Eva Albarrán. Twelve international architecture studios have been invited to create secondary residences in a context where nature and architectural experience engage in a spectacular dialogue. Therefore, each of the houses is an artistic work, and Solo Pezo is a prime example.

This brutalist-style house, seemingly suspended in the air, has been designed by Chilean architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen. It is one of the 15 vacation homes that will be part of this evocative initiative that brings together art, architecture, and landscape. What they all have and will have in common is their immersion in lush nature. Its construction was completed in 2013.

“Architectural experiences where one can feel the pleasure of disconnection in harmony with nature…”

Pezo Von Ellriscshausen Architects

This architecture studio was founded in Buenos Aires in 2001 by Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrischausen. After some time, they relocated to Concepción, Chile, where they began to explore the inseparable connections between art and architecture. Their way of conceptualizing spaces reminds us that the quality of projects lies not in grand discourses but precisely in small details and approaches.

“The main architects’ premise was to create a house that would allow maximum enjoyment of the excellent views.”

Pezo Von Ellriscshausen Architects has won numerous awards, such as the Rice Design Alliance Prize in 2012 and the Emerge MCHAP Prize in 2014, among others. They were also chosen as curators of the Chile Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia in 2008.

A Unique Setting

Solo Pezo is located in Cretas, in the Aragonese region of Matarraña, on the edge of the “Los Puertos de Tortosa-Beceite” Natural Park in Matarraña (Teruel), one of the most beautiful and undiscovered places in Spain.

Its majestic beauty is attributed to its sculptural, monolithic, symmetrical, and homothetic appearance, as if it were a concrete treehouse— a distinctive feature of the work of this Chilean duo. Filled with light thanks to its transparency, the house gives the impression of being suspended in the air.

“One of the keys to this symmetrical and geometrically precise house is the Mediterranean concept of the atrium.”

Life unfolds around a raised outdoor courtyard As if that were not enough, the life of the house revolves around an open-air interior courtyard dominated by a beautiful square pool. Its visibility is also possible from the house’s entrance, from below, where the utility room and its photogenic spiral staircase are located. Whether it’s summer or winter, its mere presence ensures a constant stendhalic experience.

Surrounding the courtyard, much like the hands of a clock, are different spaces: a kitchen, a living room, and two bedrooms, one of them double. All of them are graced by large windows that can be fully opened to the outside, transforming into terraces.

The views from any of these spaces are wonderful, as they are above the treetops and give the sensation of floating above them.

“The courtyard is the core of the house according to Mediterranean tradition.”

“The landscape is no longer a limit but a horizon.”

This perception is achieved because the construction balances on a blind plinth, making the house disappear into the foliage depending on our vantage point or, conversely, making it visible from a distance.

Similarly, the four rooms are independent from each other and interlock through four open terraces at their corners.

A very original entrance

Solo Pezo can be accessed in two ways: either through a straight sloping path until reaching an impressive double-headed staircase, or by traversing a long series of concrete stairs (a method not recommended) until reaching the aforementioned double-headed staircase.

“The rooms are accessed through a double tunnel surrounding the central pool.”

The pool is on the ground floor and provides access to the house through one of the two visible doors. Once the threshold is crossed, the bottom of the pool is visible, as its structure is transparent. To reach the upper part, where the living areas are located, one must ascend a beautiful concrete spiral staircase, which grants access to the courtyard, providing entry to all the rooms. Therefore, the reference iconography would be that of a “treehouse,” a lighthouse, or an industrial building.

Furniture and Design Objects

The residence is adorned with prestigious design brands such as USM, Gaggeneau, Santa&Cole, Fredericia, Nani Marquina, Artek, Bang&Olufsen, Flos, Cuero, The Needo, or Kvadrat. A minimalist yet warm and comfortable style prevails.

Venta d’Aubert Winery

The former “Ventas”, small constructions that served as resting places, eateries, and inns, disappeared towards the end of the 19th century.

Among them was the Venta d’Aubert, situated on the historical route connecting Tortosa with Alcañiz and Zaragoza. With the advent of motorized vehicles and the railroad, these inland regions depopulated, causing the “Ventas” to lose their commercial purpose, including the vibrant Venta d’Aubert. However, in 1986, a Swiss couple rescued it, restoring its splendor. The previously abandoned property was transformed with new vineyards and a modern winery.

Its surroundings are filled with landscapes of stark contrasts, with peaks reaching around 1400 m and the lowest points at 300 m in altitude. Its close proximity to the sea, just 80 km from the coast, and its nearness to Catalonia and Valencia have granted the region a pivotal role in the historic trade route connecting the inland lands and the Mediterranean, from Zaragoza to Tortosa.

“The winery boasts 18 hectares of vineyards located within the Solo Houses contemporary architecture project.”

The Venta d’Aubert was reclaimed in the mid-80s to embark on a pioneering project in organic viticulture by its initial Swiss owners. In 1995, the facilities of the new winery were constructed, expanded in 2001, while preserving the traditional stone building of the ‘Venta’ for wine tasting and sales, surrounded by vineyards and forest.

Summer Solo Group Show III

Solo Summer Group Show is a curated collective exhibition by Albarrán Bourdais on the grounds of Solo Houses, aiming to integrate art with architecture and landscape, allowing top contemporary artists to explore different formats in relation to the surroundings. Every two years, an approximately 2 km route is designed, where visitors encounter works and projects by prominent artists in unexpected locations amidst nature.

“Our vision of the art gallery goes beyond the white cube.”

After inaugurating SSGS I and II, you can currently enjoy the third edition, featuring a new route dotted with artworks that engage in a continuous dialogue with nature. It invites us to slow down, contemplate, and awaken our awareness in relation to the surrounding landscape, from centuries-old vineyards to olive fields and holm oak forests. It’s impressive!

“The route takes us through diverse paths and landscapes, with each artwork creating its ecosystem.”

Soon, we will publish an article about this stimulating artistic project. Stay tuned!

On this occasion, we embarked on this road trip with Lynk & Cos Model 01, a plug-in hybrid (with an electric range of up to 75 km), which proves to be extremely comfortable for long journeys. Its seats with econyl upholstery, a regenerated nylon made from recycled fishing nets and other plastic waste, are as comfortable as a gamer chair. In addition to being a very quiet car, it has numerous features that make the journey more enjoyable: a fantastic music system, a practical wireless charging space and USB ports, a 12.7″ screen serving as a central computer with all imaginable features and more, a panoramic sunroof, and an advanced dual-zone automatic climate control system, ideal for this time of year.

We really enjoyed it, and once again, it became the best travel companion. If you’re interested, you should know that it’s available in different modes depending on what you’re looking for: purchase, renting, subscription, or car sharing. Hey ho, let’s go!

(*) Photos by Ely Sánchez.