We understand architecture
as an aesthetical practice
that drives a potentially
transforming force


  • Location: Orozko, Biscay
  • Client: Private
  • Date: 2023
  • Principal Architect: Cristina Acha, Miguel Zaballa

“The farmhouse responds to a typical typological variant of Gorbeialdea, a very widespread typology in the area. The exceptional nature of Muneko Goikoa lies in the fact that it is the most complete representative that has been preserved of the farmhouses built with wooden façades back from the 16th century (...)”.

    [Etor Tellería Sarriegui, Arantza González San Román. DFB. Intervention criteria and patrimonial valuation     Caserío Muneko Goikoa. File 89/2022]

The farmhouse has an almost square floor plan, 17.30m deep and 15.30m wide, with a gabled roof and a laterally attached tile roof that houses the oven. Its main façade is oriented to the southwest.

The structure of the farmhouse is made of oak wood, with perimeter masonry walls on the ground floor, later extended to the entire northeast and northwest facades (rear and front side). The first floor fronts, both the main façade and southeast side, are made of tongue and groove wooden planks, with sections of original slit planks interspersed with later replacements.

The current construction has three levels. The ground floor with direct access from the outside in the center of the main façade. The first floor with accesses on the flanks of the main façade by means of two skids. And the top of the drying room that occupies the two central bays in the space below deck.

The ground floor is an open space on an irregular and sloping floor. On the first floor, the two central bays house two barn rooms, one on the main façade, the second below occupying the northern half. In recent times, a bathroom attached to the rear façade has been added. These rooms are flanked laterally by a sequence of three symmetrical spaces. To the northwest, they form the inhabited house, with a modern definition, the result of the reform of the 19th century and subsequent updates. To the southeast, the three subdivisions retain their original definition, structure, bulkhead divisions, access doors...

The purpose of the proposed rehabilitation is, in addition to preserving the farmhouse, to make it habitable as a single-family home. This starting point again entails the need to adapt the existing construction to respond to specific requirements.

How do we make the definition of the current requirement dialogue with what exists?

To what extent does the definition of current demand require transforming the building?

The building will not be exactly the same after the intervention. It is not possible an authentic, scientific regression to the end of the 16th century. Not even recreated since we are not pursuing a museum house, but a home to live in.

Is it still possible to preserve in the inhabited house the differential features of the original farm?

Active House vs. Passive House

“At a time when energy and resource efficiency in general has become the new industry paradigm and construction does not seem justified in continuing to use comfort prediction models that are more demanding than others that already exist (...). This results in demands that are impossible to meet or “over-adequate” environments, with the energy, material and economic expense that this entails.”

    [Alfonso Godoy Munoz. Adaptive thermal comfort]        


The farmhouse is a building adapted to the climate, with (not technical) mechanisms to respond to the evolution of day to day throughout the year. In the intended home adaptation, we believe that energy should be used sparingly.

Today, based on current regulatory parameters, the aim is to reduce consumption through energy efficiency, which means that the indoor climate is controlled, standardized and generated more and more technologically. Introducing these levels of technology in the existing construction imposes profound changes in the definition of construction systems, therefore in their image and in the character of what is to be preserved.

But this uniformity of normative climate does not correspond to the real needs.

Is there an alternative to the indoor uniform technified climate?

The seasons of the year and the diversity of the site-specific microclimate enrich the dwelling. The idea is to allow a use of the house consistent with the nature of the farmhouse through the definition of various environments, different indoor climates. 

The proposal. 

The 1550 farmhouse is entirely built of wood. Only the pillar bases and the lower level perimeter walls against the ground are made of stone. An easily legible wooden construction, precise in its details and explicit in its composition. It hides nothing, everything is visible. It's simple. Structural, tactile and visual properties are all one.

We work so that what we do now, immersed in the postmodern condition of our contemporaneity, is the same. A synthesis intervention with the same explicit mechanism based on the technical-form or kernform concept of the original farmhouse.

The proposal brings together two aspects, consolidation of the existing and adaptation intervention for 21st century home use.

The consolidation of what exists seeks to strengthen and repair the foundation elements, structure, floors, interior divisions, façade and roof.

Maintaining the original construction characteristics of the most unique elements, such as the timber-framed façade and closing boards or carpentry elements and interior divisions of bulkheads. It is considered a priority to perserve its perception both from the external image and from the internal vision. It is about cleaning up, repairing and returning the original benefits through the use of traditional construction techniques. Replacing the essentials. And assuming the imperfections, deformations, the patina.

Regarding the definition of the house, the following strategies are used: the use of a single construction system, light wooden framework, which is at the same time structure, enclosure, division and furniture; and the program organization according to a hierarchy based on adaptive comfort. These two strategies facilitate the preservation of the original in its literal definition, while responding to the habitability requirement.

The insertion of wooden frames built from vertical and horizontal planes in certain openings to house the essential rooms of the house, provides a bracing element to the structure that presents not only deformation, but also a lack of rigidity. These frames occupy entire bays between four pillars, without altering the existing structure or bulkheads. They form the conditioned space.

What remains inside the house outside the frames is the intermediate space, rooms without artificial air conditioning and with the original enclosures. These spaces are actively inhabited, colonized by the expansive activity of summer or occasionally in winter. To which the current regulatory requirements do not apply, because by themselves they cannot provide an answer, but which nonetheless keep the essential definition of the 16th century phase. Unprogrammed spaces that offer freedom of use and complement the programmed spaces that house the basic functions of the home.

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