Architecture Office Claudia Raurell completes a stripped-down residence in Barcelona for a design-minded client

Villain House

When hotelier Christian Schallert asked Spanish architect Claudia Raurell to build his new house in Barcelona, she jumped at the opportunity. They first worked together on a small project. Raurell recently explained the process, “First he tested me with three rooms in a hotel he was working on. Then, this house. He was already working with other architects, so he had to test me first.” She continued, “This is the first big project he gave me, and we kind of fell in love.”

exterior of house by Claudia Ruarell
The house is an exact replica of the volume of the original construction, except for a new indoor courtyard (José Hevia)

grid of windows on exterior
The building is skinned in a grid of aluminum windows with an automated shading system (José Hevia)

The home, named Villain House, is on Julià Street on Montjuic, a scenic neighborhood set on a hill in Barcelona. At 180 feet above sea level (about 55 meters), the site offers a panoramic view of the city. “It is a plot with a privileged relationship with the city, as if it were an immobile cable car embedded in the mountainside,” Raurell shared. She approached the project in two directions: Inside, the city is a permanent backdrop for residents, while outside, the new form becomes a new piece of the city.

interior showing concrete walls by Claudia Ruarell
Muted colors on the interior and an abundance of concrete create a stripped-down design (José Hevia)

Raurell’s practice, Architecture Office Claudia Raurell, aims to save as much of what is already existing, but this was not possible here: What was once a carpenter’s workshop became the site for the new ground-up structure. Due to various urban regulations, the new house exactly replicates the volume of the original construction, with the exception of an indoor courtyard between the house and the street wall.

house interior living room
The project in plan is resolved as a strategic splattering of volumes that isolates areas without adding doors to create continuity (José Hevia)

chestnut millwork
Lacquered chestnut millwork warms the stainless steel and other harder materials (José Hevia)

The concept was to separate the new house from the street, keep the original wall, and then create a little indoor courtyard before confronting the new structure. Raurell explained, “The gesture of separating the new body from the street alignment solved multiple issues. The new facade can establish its own formal and material rules while remaining hidden behind the existing opaque wall, and at a functional level, the void becomes a courtyard that acts as an access gate and controlled and usable outdoor space.”

concrete interiors
The city is painted as a permanent backdrop when inside the space, while outside it forms a new piece of the city (José Hevia)

The impressive building is skinned in a grid of aluminum windows with an automated shading system. The entire lot is approximately 1,076 square feet (100 square meters), and the house, around 968 square feet (90 square meters), is compact, with all the living areas on the ground floor and a guest room and small studio upstairs.

staircase in house by Claudia Ruarell
Circular stairs that lead to the first floor can be seen from within (José Hevia)

stainless steel bathroom sinks
In the bathroom, stainless steel takes center stage, adding to the rough material composition of the space (José Hevia)

The biggest challenge, according to Raurell, was controlling the materials and details. Schallert wanted to use raw and hard materials while keeping it comfortable and residential. Everything is concrete, so the interiors were done in an expanded gray palette with lacquered chestnut millwork set above terrazzo floors to warm things up a bit. Schallert, a collector, has a keen eye for design and furnishings, so the rooms include selections like built-in sofas from Barcelona manufacturer Marcasal and art from Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis.

floor-length mirrors
Floor-length mirrors continue to frame the city views (José Hevia)

The finishing touch was Raurell’s “power to domesticize the space and furniture.” Schallert’s original intention was to rent the house, but because Raurell created such a cool space, he moved in and now rents out his other place. Others have noticed the home’s attractiveness: It was recently shortlisted for the Premios Arquitectura 2024 in Spain.

concrete interiors
Terrazzo floors help soften the concrete material palette (José Hevia)

In the bathroom, a fluted wall uses texture to warm the space (José Hevia)

Raurell and Schallert are currently working on a new project together—a much bigger one, which requires a master plan and several years of work. Stay tuned.

Gay Gassmann is an American art historian, author, and writer based in Europe. Her latest book will be out this fall on the life and work of French artist Guy de Rougemont.