Ensamble Studio has shared new images of Ca’n Terra, an off-grid dwelling that occupies the subterranean landscape of Menorca, Spain. Text description provided by the architects: Ca’n Terra is the house of the earth: first just that, earth; after quarry, voided from its Mares stone; then used by the military as ammunition dump during the Spanish Civil War and later abandoned, to be rediscovered decades later and come to be architecture. The found space has industrial logic, artistic potential as a sublime cavern carved by hand, and mineral nature as an extract of the stony landscape on the island of Menorca. Finding this excavated space in the guts of the earth and reinventing its use implies writing a new story that can rescue it from its abandonment. If the history of civilization has evolved transforming ideas into matter, here the process is inverted.
‘Ca’n Terra is the house of the earth: first just that, earth; after quarry, voided from its Mares stone’
We enter the space like explorers would do, equipped with the technology that expands our vision in the dark; scanning the solid structure that was built for us. Behind the scan, the architect’s eye, directing, interpreting, creating the space again, completing it with operations that are familiar to the stone mass: new cuts to build using air and light. Three skylights are carved in the darkest corners to naturally illuminate and ventilate the space. Stone surfaces are thoroughly cleaned from the mold and dirt accumulated. Translucent curtains are introduced to delimit areas of intimacy. Mechanical systems are integrated in a series of casted slabs that follow the topography of the cave and mixes cement with Mares powder to create a new stone. Solar panels, septic tank and water cistern enable its use off the grid.
Architecture appears and we can inhabit. In lieu of the imposing action that we often exert on the environment, we propose a trip to the interior being of matter, and recognize the beauty of the spaces that are waiting to be lived. This is a project that boldly seeks a balance between nature and artifice, between histories and times, between people and the environment.
Photography by Iwan Baan