Recovering memory with the pioneers of mass construction


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Rosal Stones

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Last May, Juan Fernández, a pioneer in mass construction, invited us to visit his house. It was completed in 1991 and since then he has lived there with his family.

This house was the first, except of course for the historical monuments made of solid stone of our municipality, probably in the Region of Murcia and possibly in Spain if we exclude Can Lis, the house built by Jorn Utzon in Mallorca in the 1970s.

We asked John what led him to this concept now considered so innovative, and he told us that he had lived all his life in a stone house, his parents’ house, from old slab stones collected from the terraces to improve the farmland. This house featuring walls 50 cm thick had provided comfort to his family for many years and he did not want to lose it. However, at this time it was no longer easy to find stones of this type in sufficient quantity and the custom was to grind them for other uses… He knew about our company because it is located precisely between the town of his parents and the city of Caravaca, and he thought that perhaps with us he would find what he was looking for and that turned out to be the case. My father, in those years, could provide him with ashlars of different measurements for him to build the house.

He shared his worries with his friend and architect Miguel Ángel Blanco, then-director of the School of Arts and Crafts of Caravaca, which is now defunct. He who knew how to capture his idea and together they made the project a reality. Between the both of them and Miguel Romera, an acquaintance and friend who was a master mason, they launched and successfully completed the project.

The house was built on two floors, taking advantage of the slope of the land, the ashlar walls that were 40 cm thick which served as exterior and load-bearing walls, as well as for part of the terraces, joined by a poor cement coloured with stone dust (in most cases) placed with a bull. The concrete was used only for the slabs, the pillars that hold the terraces and the eaves of the roof. The roof was made with Arab tile recovered from other constructions. Inside the house they left some exposed stone parts, such as lintels, but in general they used scratches and plaster in order to fill out the facilities. The windows are made of wood, with a single glass and shutter. If they undertook any reform it would be to include double glazing, but still it is not essential. The paint is not plastic, to let ‘the wall work,’ Juan says. Initially they painted with tempera paint, but when they had to clean the paintings of their children, says his wife, they eliminated much of it. Now they have used a special painting for restoration.

Juan tells us that the eave was built to maximize the use of the sun in winter and minimize exposure in the summer and that they arranged connecting windows to favour northeast-southeast currents that mitigated the summer heats.

From his experience of all these years, now 30 have gone by, of living in this house in solid stone he and his wife tell us that it is a privilege. It is hot in winter and cool in summer. In the winter they use as a heating source only a biomass boiler and in summer nothing! On the ground floor, with a wall to the ground and without windows, it is even cold if you sleep there in summer they tell us. On the first floor when the outside temperatures are around 35-40 degrees, inside the house , with the windows closed a temperature of about 25 degrees is maintained, which is ideal for living and at night between the terraces and the gentle drafts it is simply magnificent. “This house is bioclimatic! he states.


In these thirty years, the maintenance of the stone has been null. They have not had to perform any work in this regard and both like the initial result and its evolution over time “is ‘beautiful’: ‘we liked it both before and now'”

Finally, Juan tells me about something that we have not talked about and that is very significant: “inside a stone building you can hear the silence

After leaving this family’s home, I wonder where this inspiration, this premonition of how to build for a better future, would come from, and I go back to the past, to when I met him. Juan is a teacher and forerunner of the Fiesta de las Cuadrillas in Baranda, his hometown and that of my maternal grandparents as well. During these festivities there were for the 80s days of education in which without a doubt he participated and of which I remember a conclusion, he had to ‘recover memory’, which had been lost in the second half of the twentieth century with modernity. On the subject at hand, with the new building materials the quality of life of previous years was forgotten. And this is what John did, he recovered his memory, and he probably continued to recover it in the silence that is heard from his stone house.

These days served as the basis for the educational reform that would be carried out in Spain a few years later and that among other things, modified the way of learning the reading and writing. It began by knowing the background of stories, to recognize the complete titles and then to know their parts, words and letters. It was not so necessary to know the composition of the words but their history and their meaning and to leave time to understand, to feel, to fill the memory with sensations, with ideas and recreations of their own which would later be expressed in the conventional communication code, just like architecture. Juan had filled his memory with sensations and these memories led him to recreate with his friends, the architect and builder, the construction project that has been his home with a new architectural language.

The stone gives us this opportunity, for its silence, for its memory, for its versatility, for its very nature, and continues to give us this opportunity from the most demanding criteria of social, economic and environmental sustainability.


By Catalina Sánchez Robles.

Rosal Stones CEO

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The blog specialized in natural sandstones and limestones, natural stones for paving, floors and cladding of exterior and interior, as well as decoration and massive construction.

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