Conversation with Christian Bourdais of Solo Houses
Collecting great modern architecture is Christian Bourdais’ passion. With his Spanish wife Eva Albarran, this French art connoisseur has bought a huge expanse of wilderness in Spain, on the border between Aragona and Catalonia, on which to build 15 houses, each designed by one of the most creative architects of our times.
For the moment, two of these “Solo Houses” have been built: Casa Solo Pezo, a large concrete square designed by Chilean couple Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen, and Solo Circle, a cosmic 45-meter-wide ring by the Brussels practice Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen. Both are open-air and light. Both are generous in terms of life experience. One night and one sunrise in each is the ultimate adventure of light and sensation. Nature is everywhere, from every side, because architecture is everywhere, in every small detail.
Thanks to Bourdais’ vision and passion for contemporary art, more than 10 other projects will soon emerge from this land of olive trees, green oaks and red rocks. Let’s meet this new architectural collector.
YOU ARE CREATING UNIQUE VACATION RENTALS IN SPAIN, WHICH ARE ARCHITECTURAL COLLECTIBLES AND HOLIDAY HOMES AT THE SAME TIME. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY?
Christian Bourdais: “Today, builders have killed architecture. At some point, for many commercial, administrative or technical reasons, creators have lost their capacity to create new architecture. My wife, Eva Albarran and I love architecture and are producers of cultural and artistic events. This is why we have created this new concept: a place for contemporary creativity and the promotion of architecture which will be important in future art history. The main idea of Solo Houses is to encourage a real capacity for creativity among new architects. But at the same time, I am interested in a reflection of the ‘second home’. Today I think that a second home, or a vacation house, is a mix between memory and experience in a short time.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT?
CB: “I mean, people don’t need to have the same property for their vacations all their life any more. I think this idea of a second home, our parents’ dream, is old-fashioned and disappearing. People don’t care any more about having a second home. They just want to live a new and short experience in a different place and create great memories with their children and friends. With the internet and sharing economy, it’s easier to travel and discover a new place every year, if that’s what you want. That’s why our project is this one: to give people the opportunity to live somewhere very different and unique, thanks to a special place and imaginative architecture.”
WHY DID YOU CREATE YOUR PROJECT IN THIS UNKNOWN SPANISH WILDERNESS?
CB: “For this project, we wanted land with no industrial or modern visual marks, like electric cables or water tanks or bad modern construction. A land like it was 300 years ago. We also looked for a place in Europe where construction regulations were not too strict. I found an amazing piece of land in Turkey, but it was complicated to build there. Finally, I fell in love with this part of Spain, in Aragon, far away from the cliché of the Spanish seaside. Very rural land with some classical modern regulations of course (electricity, water, access, environment…), but which allowed for freedom of shape and form.”
YOU HAVE BUILT TWO HOUSES SO FAR. WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?
CB: “In the next two years, we’ll build five more houses plus a 30-room hotel. Then, every year, we’ll build two or three new houses. We need 15 houses in total, each designed by a different young and talented architect. We also want outdoor and indoor cultural activities like art exhibitions, an outdoor cinema, a film festival…”
DO YOU HAVE A RED LINE IN TERMS OF ARCHITECTURE? WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR WHEN YOU ASK TO AN ARCHITECT TO BUILD A HOUSE?
CB: “What’s going on in our houses in terms of sensation? That’s our red line. We want to create a kind of different surprise in each house. One of them will be a kind of huge balcony on a cliff under a field of olive trees, another will be like an inverted pyramid, and another will be inside a kind of wooden scaffolding… Spending time at Solo Houses is a real experience. I spend time in the circular house with my family and it works. Kids find their own area, parents too, even in an open space like a circle with no walls, everybody lives together in a kind of harmony.
“It’s the same in the square house. Despite an inside pool built right in the middle of the house, we can see through each room a complete view of nature. In each of them, you are inside and out at the same time. The next project will continue this idea. So we are proposing a new concept of vacation: great architecture in great nature.”