Casa Carvajal, architecture 26

Carvajal House

Of concrete and skin

Written by Inma Buendía
Photographed by Marina Denisova
Creative direction by Casa Josephine

The sun sets over the garden at Carvajal House while Mariluz, Marina and the rest of the team finish up the photo shoot for Openhouse Magazine with the creative direction of Casa Josephine.

The aim is to dress this iconic space as it has never before been seen. It has been an intense day, with tough moments, but the sense of humour shared by Iñigo, Pablo and Christian placates any instances of fatigue or unease. The month of June enters its dying days, and the scorching summer rages more intensely than ever as we begin to take our leave.

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1CAMALEONDA Sofa by B&B ITALIA Courtesy of LA STUDIO MADRID, and lamp from WEEKEND Collection designed by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO.
1Wooden side table, paintings, ceramics, stoll, desk and Italian chairs from CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop. MANUEL MARIN Sculpture by LAGUR Madrid.

Covadonga Martínez, the owner of the house, and her daughter Cristina Rodríguez de Acuña are our hosts. The latter is responsible for managing the many projects that are being staged at the house, thanks to its growing popularity with a new generation of creatives since its appearance in a music video by C. Tangana.

Casa Carvajal, architecture 38

Just like another member of the family, Carvajal House has held great sway over the Martínez-Rodríguez de Acuña family. In her book Casa Carvajal: Miradas Cruzadas (Ediciones Asimétricas, 2020), Cristina reflects on how architecture not only stirs emotions but also brings about changes in people: “I’ve lived in a great many houses over the years, but nothing like this one. The floor-to-ceiling windows, the light that falls on different places throughout the day, the continuous and open spaces that encourage family encounters,” she explains. 

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1Lisboa lounge chair by MOR DESIGN. POLO Lamp by Joan Gaspar for MARSET.
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1Round sculpture by MUSEO POPULAR Store, Madrid.

Covadonga, who still resides in the house that she has put up for sale, admits that she has already mourned her loss. And although she still has mixed feelings and enduring memories of the house, she has no problem with starting a new chapter in her life and ending her blissful relationship with Carvajal House.

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1Oak and blackboard side table and oak folding screen by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop. Limostone wooden table designed by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO.

It was the sort of love story where the protagonists were fated to meet. Only in this case, the lovers are made of concrete and skin. “My mother fell in love with the house from the very beginning,” Cristina explains. Somewhat more reserved than her daughter, but wonderfully obliging, Covadonga recounts the intimate relationship she has had with this house that began long before she came to live in it, when this masterpiece was the gleaming, newly built residence of its architect.

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1Embrace Chair by EOOS from CARL HANSEN & SØN. Oak and blackboard side table and oak folding screen by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop. Limostone wooden table designed by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO.
1SOLIUM Chair by PIERRE AUGUSTIN ROSE. LUISA Calice by R+D.LAB.

The first time she saw the Carvajal House, she was accompanied by her husband Fernando R. Rodríguez de Acuña. He was a lecturer in the Faculty of Economics of the Complutense University of Madrid, where he would often meet up with his wife. At one of these meet ups, while they were strolling around the neighbourhood, their eyes fell upon this brutalist house surrounded by meticulously planned gardens, inspired by the work of masters such as Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright. Covadonga, an art and architecture enthusiast, was immediately fascinated.

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1DIVAN 190 Sofa by PIERRE AUGUSTIN ROSE.

The house is located in the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón, next door to a dwelling of similar characteristics that Javier Carvajal (Barcelona, 1926–Madrid, 2013) built for his wife’s parents, the García-Valdecasas House. Both houses earned the architect the 1968 Fritz Schumacher Prize awarded by the Technical University of Hannover. However, it was in his own residence that the Barcelona-born architect performed a feat that was totally revolutionary for Spain at the time, with exposed concrete volumes laid out with an oppressive geometry enveloped by lush vegetation.

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1Artisan kilim from Afghanistan by TAILAK Store. LA VIRGEN Y SANTA ANA Carving from XVII Century by BERENIS Store Madrid.
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As the years passed, Covadonga and Fernando had six children, one of whom began to study in the same faculty where his father had once taught. Covadonga would drive him there. One day, without knowing very well why, after dropping of her son, she continued on to Somosaguas and asked the security guards of this residential community whether there were any houses for sale. She showed no interest in any of the ones available, but as she was about to drive away, she saw Carvajal House. 

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1REPOSO Chaise longue and side table by EXPORMIM.

Thirty years after its construction, this iconic building was uninhabited and noticeably neglected. It belonged to the government of Chile, which had used it for a long time as a diplomatic residence. After an arduous bureaucratic process, the couple was successful, and they moved into their new home in December 1996.

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1SANTA ÁGUEDA Sculpture by SALVADOR AMAYA and French armchair from CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop.
1Scarf by HERMÈS. POLO Lamp by Joan Gaspar for MARSET. Side table from the sixties by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop.

“When we arrived, we had to remove all the vines that covered the doors; it was like entering a burrow,” Cristina recalls. “We spent the first few months fixing things. When it wasn’t one thing that went wrong, it was another,” Covadonga laughingly recounts. “The first night we slept here, it snowed in Madrid. It was frightfully cold, and the heating didn’t work. We were so incredibly cold,” they explain.

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1RHOMBUS Deck chair & side table, and FLAMBOYANT Sun umbrella by LOBSTER’s DAY.

As we are about to leave, Cristina politely approaches and makes a request: “Please pay tribute to my mother.” I smile pensively and do not hesitate to give her my word. Although I actually believed at that time, and still do even now as I write, that Javier Carvajal had already paid tribute to Covadonga in 1966, unwittingly, when he built this dream home for her and her family.

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1VIRGEN MARÍA and SAN JUAN French carvings from XVI and XVIII Century repectively by BERTRAND BATHELEMY ANTGÜEDADES Madrid. Bench from the 1960s and French ceramic by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop.
1Artwork by WALTER STRACK. L'ESCALA Black lamps designed by ESTUDI BLANC for METALARTE. Wooden bench by CHARLOTTE PERRIAND. French ceramics by CASA JOSEPHINE STUDIO Shop. MARYLYN Armchairs by BAXTER Courtesy of GUNNY & TRENTINO Madrid.
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