The Olive Houses by mar plus ask

  • Spanish-based architecture duo mar plus ask reconceptualise a centuries-old house with the addition of a new building, designed as a place of silent refuge for architects, artisans and writers in Mallorca.

    Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in the Tramuntana Mountains of Mallorca, the atmosphere of these two off-the-grid homes reminisces on the Spanish lifestyle of a bygone era. Perched in the hills among olive groves, the pre-existing ‘Purple House’ structure is built against a solid rock formation, while the new ‘Pink House’ is reminiscent of the curves found in traditional rural Spanish architecture. mar plus ask’s serene short stay accommodation celebrates its distinct connection to nature and the peaceful mountainous surrounds. 

    mar plus ask architect and co-founder Ask Anker Aistrup reveals that the vision behind the two houses was to recreate the oldest archetype of space and man’s first home; the cave. With this in mind, the studio were careful about the new build not disrupting the existing architecture. “You’ll always find a small stone house on each property in this region that serves to shelter tools, but more importantly, a place to make paella or a stew for lunch,” Ask says. “Most likely, there’s also a small foldable daybed to take a siesta when the sun is hottest.”

    Ask says there were two basic principles that the team laid out before building the Pink House. “The first one was obvious; we would not touch or cut any olive trees,” he says. “That reduced our list of places to build significantly. The second was not moving any rocks,” he adds. A large stone in the Pink House became the focal point of the design, while pink stucco with an orange tinge enhances the richness of the olive trees visible around the house.

    Built against a rock, the Purple House was once used for housing tools many centuries ago. Presented with an incredibly narrow space, mar plus ask focused on bringing light into the building through an expansive frameless window. The deep purple colour was chosen for its properties – the complementary colour of an olive tree leaf. Fluid concrete was selected for the floor of both houses, marking a significant transition from the exterior to the interior. 

    Built into existing rock, the outdoor shower utilises water from a natural spring behind the house.

    The Purple House consists of a bathroom, two gas burners, a sink, a wood-fired oven, dining table and stools and a fridge powered by solar panels. Pink House acts as the sleeping quarters, with a double bed and small fireplace. Tucked neatly within existing rock, water for the outdoor shower is provided from a natural spring located behind the house. “It was reassuring to know that the functions we were looking to build wouldn’t be much different to those of the existing structures found in the area,” architect and co-founder Mar Vicens Fuster says.

    Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Tramuntana region embodies historical Spanish culture at its finest. “The incredible scenic mountain area is one of the most beautiful examples we have on earth of how well wild and human-made nature can intertwine seamlessly,” Mar says. “It’s a rare example where man has given more beauty than he has taken away from nature.”

    A large glazed window in the modest kitchen overlooks the hills and boulders, with a custom sink carved out in the same purple stucco finish.

    Purple stucco walls and polished concrete floors ensure the focus remains on the home’s enviable location.

    The home provides everything you need for a short stay, including earthen ceramic dinnerware.

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