G4. Javier Sánchez Merina


Everyday life can generate extraordinary architecture



Due to the increasing number of Erasmus students who choose Alicante University, we propose the following course, which is new in the curricula:

DESIGN PROJECTS 4, an Integrated Course taught together with other courses in Year 3.

An innovation for this group, taught in English, is the fact of being a course based on Studio work. It is an important aim for us to encourage a symmetrical collaboration between the Erasmus and the local students of Architecture. In this way, we will learn from the Erasmus students the method of learning architecture around the Studio: all the courses in Year 3 are organized around the student’s project. This is a pedagogy followed by the Anglo-Saxon university system. The studio is a great potential as a scenario to open up to new realities by connecting other courses, apart from being efficient for the student’s results and fun.

In DESIGN PROJECTS 4, we believe architecture is part of specific stories, of affections and dreams, of interpersonal projects, besides being the result of a negotiation and the unexpected. This course is built around a series of articles, “Stories of Houses”


This year we will focus on the examples built in Spain. We will deconstruct these single-family homes that are classified in the books of architecture as works of authorship, and give value to their origins that belongs to cultural realities.

Since these homes were built during the 20th Century, cultural concepts, generating these projects, have changed in our contemporary society. This fact will allow us to rethink and update these architectures through transformations, extensions, demolitions, etc.

All the houses to be studied and visited are located in Spain. The different courses in Year 3 will deal with:

  • – Culture and tradition.
  • – Constructive technique.
  • – Structure and materials.
  • – Proposals for living.
  • – Insertion in the territory.

List of houses possible to visit are:

  • * Casa del Retiro Espiritual (Sevilla), by Emilio Ambasz.
  • * Can Lis and Can Feliz (Mallorca), by Jørn Utzon.
  • * Casita para Kolonihaven (Barcelona), by Enric Miralles.
  • * La Casa de la Lluvia (Santander), by Juan Navarro Baldeweg.
  • * La Casa de Blas (Madrid), by Alberto Campo Baeza.
  • * Casa en La Moraleja (Madrid), by Miguel Fisac.
  • * Casa en Corrubedo (Galicia), by David Chipperfield.
  • * Casas en Barrio San Matías (Granada), by Juan Domingo Santos.
  • * Casa en Never Never Land (Ibiza) by Andrés Jaque.

As a special feature of this course, we will focus the research towards THERAPEUTIC ARCHITECTURE.

The British neurologist, Oliver Sacks, describes in his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, that Nature’s imagination is richer than ours. In that sense, there are defects, disorders and diseases that can play a paradoxical role, by bringing out latent powers, developments, evolutions, forms of life, that might never be seen, or even be imaginable, in their absence. It is the paradox of a disease, and turns into a “creative” potential.

The application of this belief into architecture will form a central theme of this course.

Sacks bases his theories on the remarkable plasticity of the brain, its capacity to form the most striking adaptations – the same notion that Jose María Torres Nadal articulated 20 years ago when foreseeing what would be the new Alicante School of Architecture.

From here, Sacks argues, one should redefine the concepts of “health” and “disease” and to see them in terms of the ability of the organism to create a new organization and order, one that fits its special, altered disposition and needs, rather than in the terms of a rigidly defined “norm.”

The Preface of his book concludes by making an importance to the patients’ home, as the place that calls at the far borders of human experience.


  1. Read STORIES OF HOUSES and select three stories. These are examples of architecture built from the lives of their clients.
  2. Create a video presentation and explain the criteria of your choice.
  3. Make a group of three students and study the cultural elements that generated two of the selected houses. From here you are asked to create two collages that illustrate these same elements in context.
  4. Observe the evolution of culture in the last 30 years and apply it to one of your houses. You are asked to understand the passing of time, from the day when the house was conceived up to today, and how the understanding of these cultural concepts has evolved over the last 20-30 years. Examples are: the concept of access, the period of mourning, the family structure, construction methods, ways of working, communication, nutrition, etc. Furthermore, the evolution of the house has to offer architectural responses to a neurodegenerative or metabolic disease suffered by one member of the family.
  5. Add a new End to the Story. It will be based on specific facts that you acquire during your research.
  6. Draw an action/activity, according to the requirements of the cultural evolution treated in your project.
  7. Achieve an architecture that corresponds to the new action/activity.

This is a working method that allows students to go beyond a formalist approach and provides a confidence at the time they are asked to upgrade the selected example:




The final exercise consists of creating a Manifesto. The students are asked to document the work process and to reflect on the results. The Manifesto will have the format of a book. The role model is VERB, a series of books by Actar (Barcelona): font, design (form of communication + the relationship between text, pictures, diagrams and drawings).

The content of every individual book should show the process of working during the period:

  1. The original story of the house and its drawings.
  2. Extracted images from the video presentation.
  3. Reading of the stories and the criteria for selecting a particular one.
  4. Collages illustrating the concepts of the stories chosen – concept of the 20th Century and its transformation into the 21st Century.
  5. Drawing of the action showing the cultural element that made the house of the 20th Century a house of the 21st Century. Each student must demonstrate the contribution to the proposal. Therefore, an individual and a collective drawing must be included.
  6. Technical drawing of the original house – A SECTION OF A DETAIL – of an action in the space.
  7. The most interesting conversations between team members; how arguments were constructed and reached a consensus about how to move forward in the proposals. Finally, evaluate and reflect on the teamwork/team effort in your group.
  8. Bibliography.
  9. Manifesto: write a conclusion to your research project, Re-reading Stories of Houses.

Note: Teaching will be in English.


To acquire knowledge of the following public interests:

  • – To detect new patterns of social organization by linking production with consumption, recognizing how different items are constructed from the raw material to the finished product.
  • – To gain confidence in teamwork and to establish multidisciplinary relationships.
  • – Moreover, this exercise provides two focal points: to reflect on and respond to the need of editing drawings. Students are asked to return to the original story and reflect critically on what their proposal offers/adds to the original house. In this way the drawings can be redefined, if necessary, by taking into account constructive comments made in the CRITS.
  • – Additionally, the students are asked to think as an editor who works for Actar. This means: to follow the line of design and to be critical when deciding which way, and how, the drawings/writings are selected and published in a book. The style of writing must be academic.


It is continuous, with an evaluation of the project every two weeks, directed by the teacher and fellow students. It consists of the following:

  • – Qualities of analysis and deconstruction of a text.
  • – Identification of the concept of culture in a home.
  • – Ability to draw this same concept through an action/event within the house.
  • – Ability to develop an idea using different techniques, scales and materials and to illustrate different views on the project.
  • – Acquisition of techniques to work in an international team. Share drawings, googledocs, googlegroups, and videoconferencing.


11th September to 18th December 2015.

Room 10P.

Fridays, from 10:30 to 14:30.


– Series STORIES OF HOUSES (http://storiesofhouses.blogspot.com)

– Ettore Sottsass. Video Interviews Alessi, 2008.

Five Obstructions. Film by Lars von Tier and Jørgen Leth, 2003.

Teddy house, by Andres Jaque. http://andresjaque.net/wordpress/proyectos/teddy-house-coruxo/

– Cedric Price: The Fun Palace.

Koolhaas Houselife. Beka Video I. & L. Lemoine.

Un antropólogo en Marte. Oliver Sacks.

– Beyond the Dwelling, the Home. By Javier Sánchez Merina. In KRISTÍN GUÐMUNDSDÓTTIR. Interior Designer. Halldóra Arnardóttir.


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