In one way or another, the family home, the one where we grew up, always occupies a special place in our memory. But if it was also a space intentionally projected by one of the architects most recognized in Spain –Javier Carvajal, Barcelona, 1926– to awaken emotions, memories become even more intense. This is what happened to the photographer Cristina Rodríguez de Acuña (Madrid, 41 years old), who moved with her family to this famous house in 1996, two decades after the architect built it for himself. The house receives the proper name of Casa Carvajal and is still owned by the Rodríguez de Acuña family, although it was put up for sale last June for 3.9 million euros. The photographer says goodbye to what has been her family home with the photobook Crossed looks. The Carvajal House (Ediciones Asimétricas), in which he narrates his relationship with this space.
Cristina Rodríguez de Acuña perfectly remembers her arrival at the age of 16 at this house, an example of the brutalist Spanish architecture of the second half of the 20th century. “My mother fell in love with it, she knew how to see the value of its architecture, although at that time it was not appreciated as much as it is now,” he says. “It had been the property of the Chilean ambassador, but it had not been inhabited for a long time; when we arrived we had to remove the vines that covered the doors, it was like entering a burrow “.
That was precisely the title that director Carlos Saura used for the film that he shot at Casa Carvajal in 1969. In The burrow, the house was as important as its protagonists, Geraldine Chaplin and Per Oscarsson. Rodríguez de Acuña remembers seeing the film when he was a teenager, but “at that time we did not know that we lived in such a work of art.” In 1968, the house received the Best European Architecture award, awarded by the University of Hannover. A year later, he received the prestigious award Fritz schumacher from the University of Hamburg.
And, after having inhabited this burrowWhat can you aspire to? “Throughout these years, I have lived in many, many houses, but none like this one. The windows, the light projected in different places throughout the day, the continuous and open spaces that always favored the encounter between the family ”, he recalls. For the author, architecture not only evokes feelings, but also transforms people. “It is not the same to live in a cave than in a skyscraper, and we have seen that during confinement, how important it was to have at least one balcony, for example.”
Cristina Rodríguez de Acuña lived at Casa Carvajal until she was 22 years old, when she left to study outside of Spain. It was then that he began to realize how Carvajal’s purposeful architecture had entered his life and his memories. “The smell of wet earth drives me crazy and working on this project I realized that it was because my room in Casa Carvajal was buried, that is, the window was level with the ground, from where I could smell the grass perfectly” , tells about his bedroom, such an intimate and important space in adolescence.
“The Carvajal House is a container of nature, it is already visible, after so many years nature has taken over all the outdoor spaces,” he explains about the house of more than 1,000 square meters of construction and 5,000 of plot. To design it, Javier Carvajal was inspired by constructions such as the Alhambra in Granada, with central patios and fountains.
The humanist architect from Barcelona, who died in 2013, designed all kinds of buildings: homes, educational, religious, commercial spaces… In the sixties, he revolutionized commercial architecture with the integral design of Loewe stores. Among the various distinctions he received throughout his career, the first prize awarded by the Institute of American Architecture for the Spanish Pavilion at the 1964 New York International Exhibition stands out.
It is not the first photographic work on housing. In 1969, the photographer Paco Gómez had already documented the Casa Carvajal and its architectural keys. “But I don’t see my house in those images,” says Rodríguez de Acuña, “nor in my own photos that I took when starting this project five years ago; I needed to go through an emotional process first ”.
In Crossed looks. The Carvajal House, the photographer has managed to narrate her relationship with space through photographs and texts, written by herself and by other architects who share this gaze such as Alberto Campo Baeza, Ignacio Vicens, Del Val, Alejandro Gómez García or Eduardo Delgado Orusco, among others. “It was they who finally helped me to identify those feelings caused by architecture,” says the photographer, who returned with her three children five years ago to the family home, where their mother still lives.
In 2019, Casa Carvajal was opened to the public for the first time during Madrid Architecture Week. “Fortunately, in recent years it has begun to be valued as it deserves and has been the object of study for many architects, including Carvajal’s own grandchildren,” says Rodríguez de Acuña, who wishes that this “architectural work of art” become a foundation with the new acquisition. “It is important to take care of this type of heritage, show it and study it,” he concludes. The Community of Madrid has proposed that the family be declared an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) as a Spanish Heritage Monument for being one of the most representative houses of the time in Spain.
These days, Casa Carvajal has been able to experience itself through the very personal look of its tenant in the space Vitra Showroom Madrid (Padilla, 21), with a selection of originals by Cristina Rodríguez de Acuña that have been the basis for the publication of Crossed looks. The Carvajal House.