High up in the Tramuntana Mountains of Mallorca, Spain, we designed two small off-the-grid vacation houses with sea views. Surrounded by thousand-year-old olive trees and standing on dry-stacked stone terraces, the structures demonstrate how seamlessly nature and the manmade can intertwine. You must be very convinced of your own skills as an architect if your hand isn’t trembling when sketching something to be built here!
The mountainsides here are a patchwork of small plots, most with stone structures used to shelter tools, make a paella for lunch, or take a siesta. Some were built right into the slopes, a spatial solution that appealed strongly to us. Our mandate was to leave the property’s mammoth rocks and olive trees undisturbed and to minimize use of color and materials to make shapes and textures stand out.
In one house, pink stucco was chosen as a unifying treatment and to complement the olive tree leaves. We embraced a big boulder as a piece of art; the house was more about sculpting its backdrop and being its lightbox. We also renovated an existing structure on the site that was built against a rock formation. It had only one window, which we changed into the entrance. The interior seemed too narrow to add a kitchen until we realized we could cut through one of the 2-foot-thick stone walls and use its depth to our advantage. Adding an enormous frameless window above gave us a panoramic view. The beauty of this location, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is that it’s a response to scarcity rather than excess.
—Mar Vicens and Ask Anker Aistrup, Mar Plus Ask