A Cave for Living, Built From a Traditional Spanish Toolshed

The first structure — named the Pink House, after the color of its stucco interior, chosen to complement the matte green underside of an olive leaf — is built from stacked stone and incorporates several large rock outcroppings on the hillside. “We did not want to move anything,” Aistrup says. “You want to let the site dictate what you do.” The uniformity of color brings out the velvety texture of the stucco and underlines the contrast between cavelike primordiality and hypermodernism. The floors are poured concrete in a matching hue, and the entrance is a nine-foot-high archway over which a huge teak slab slides closed at night. Inside, there’s a double bed in a corner niche beside a window with views to the mountains, and a boxy fireplace that is often lit and kept low (even in summer) to regulate the humidity caused by the difference in temperature between the warm outdoors and the cool interior. Much of the space is consumed by the giant rock around which the structure is built, as though it were a monumental sculpture. A spout is installed high on a wall beside it, creating an open shower illuminated by a skylight: Water collected on the roof feeds through a stone filter before cascading down. Outside, a piece of stone they found on-site has been made into a sink and rigged to the other side of the rock formation. There is no living room, though they plan to install a long teak table amid the trees. “You live in the light,” Vicens says.

About 30 feet away lies the Purple House — the interior color intended to echo the darker, glossier side of an olive leaf — designated for cooking and eating. Modified from the original shed on the property, which was also made from stacked stones and sunk into a rock formation, it’s a challenge just to enter: You have to thread your way through jutting chunks of stone to reach the teak Dutch door that replaced the old structure’s sole small window. The couple poured the cement floor between the existing rocks, so the surface is smooth and rough in equal measure, further blurring the boundaries between inside and out.

Like similar structures in the Tramuntanas, the former shed had walls that were two feet thick to insulate it. Those made the space too narrow to install a kitchen, so the couple came up with a novel solution: They cut a 4-by-6-foot section out of one wall, thus creating a counter wide enough for a sink and plumbing, then installed a large frameless window above it that seems almost invisible. In addition to a small bathroom, there is a refrigerator powered by solar-roof panels, a tiny table and an alcove in the rock to store a few dishes. On the cement counter sit two propane burners for simple meals.

The couple now has a 1-year-old daughter, Sol (“sun” in both Danish and Spanish), and on some summer weekends, Vicens’s two older brothers bring their children from their own plots nearby. In the evening, after the last candle has burned down, everyone does what they have always done here in the mountains: very little, taking in the silence and the scent of olive and lemon on the breeze. “What evolved here over a thousand years is a response to scarcity rather than excess,” Aistrup says. “That makes it different. It dictates everything.”

Produced by Siska Lyssens.

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