Designing your own house – in the case of two very busy professionals – can become a trial of sorts, involving children, relatives and friends. “That is what happened here,” admits Harald Schönegger. “A private family project, leading to long discussions of proportions, down to the millimeter, and the positioning of furniture and paintings.”

But it is also one of the most brilliant achievements of this architect of Italian origin, from Alto Adige, who studied at the IUAV University of Venice, done together with his wife Immaculada González, from southern Spain, an architect of the Andalusia Region.

Schönegger’s career, after founding the studio Eddea with four other partners in 2006, is paced by many important works. “Among those now finished, I like to mention the courthouse of Antequera in Spain ( FAD Prize 2007) and the Swimming Sports Center in Lepe ( Bauwelt Prize 2005). I moved to Seville at the end of the 1980s, because I was attracted by the work opportunities (those were the years of the Olympics and the Expo), and I immediately felt at ease, also because of the personal relationships, which are more informal; titles are out, though roles are respected.”

Harald and Immaculada found the house of their lives in the historical center of Seville. Inside the irregular, dense urban fabric, they discovered a decrepit building that was made as a working class multi-family house in the 18th century (apart from certain subsequent additions), with a facade that measures almost 11 meters (an exception, since buildings here are usually half that size), with good north-south orientation.

“A good starting point to make sunlight enter the spaces,” the architect comments, “considering the fact that in Seville, at least in classic typologies like this one – walls parallel to the facade alternating with patios, in a rhythm of two walls, one patio, two walls, one patio – the spaces are enjoyable according to the season: summer on the ground floor, winter on the upper levels. We thus gained the plus of living well all year round.”

The framework has been reinvented in the interiors, while the protected facade has been conserved, with the two load-bearing walls parallel to it. In substance, “the volume has remained the same, but from the first patio on everything has been designed anew, transformed and interpreted, with the aim of creating a certain transparency and uninterrupted fluidity among the perceptible parts in the entire lot. When you enter the house you are wrapped in air and light.

And Seville is not a very green city. We have corrected this, bringing the landscape into a spatial construct on four levels, including the roof. In the uppermost part, where the solarium faces south, we have placed large ornamental plants that can stand up to 45° temperatures, while in the patio zone, which is protected by shade, we have Ginkgo biloba, myrtle and other trees that push aside my memories of Venetian houses that have no relationship with nature.”

Hence the concept: the range of colors of the seasons gives the spaces of everyday life a key to sustainability, through the lifecycle of the plants that regulate the local microclimate like architectural filters.

On the level of application, the use of a self-supporting prefabricated structure, routinely deployed in public buildings, has eliminated other bothersome factors. The reinforcements, stressed during the pouring of the concrete, permit larger structural spans, and the members remain concealed, adding greater verve and a sense of surprise in the overall extension.

Starting from the ground floor that inserts a small apartment for parents and guests in the overall composition, while the first floor contains the living areas, with the bedrooms on the second. Detached from the perimeter walls, the new parts thrive on the use of diaphragms of stainless steel and transparent glass surfaces facing the inner garden-patio. The materic essence of an approach to architecture underlines the contemporary language of the project, blending with the rest: the industrial wood floors, the figure of the untreated raw black steel ribbon staircase, the monolithic island of the open kitchen in polished steel, but also the knotty wood of the existing ceilings, conserved also in terms of proportions.

Schönegger has respected the original silhouette of the roof of the building, but in the new part he has eliminated a portion of the tiles, creating an evocative opening for light that frames the patio and establishes a constant dialogue with the sky. “It takes me back to that world that corresponds to my character (his is originally from Merano, ed.), made of tailored spaces, where everything has a leading role: from the beloved Arco lamp to the Nordic furniture, all the way to the paintings by Marisé González, the painter who is Immaculada’s sister.”

Photos Fernando Alda – Article Antonella Boisi