The villagers certainly thought we were crazy, rebuilding a dilapidated old timber-framed earth-walled peasant farmhouse in the 21st century. But in the end everyone in the village is proud of it!
In August 2002 we bought 'la casa de Pío Pascual' in Valdemaluque. It was a great hulk of a thing, practically windowless, without running water, riddled with woodworm and rot, and barely standing. It had stood empty and shut-up for 40 years.
The old house was beyond repair, but we set about designing a rebuilding project to bring it back to life again, conserving its original style, features and building materials.
Inside, the ground floor rooms were laid out to meet the ancient needs of a peasant farming family, but that was obviously part of the essence of the house and we considered it important to adapt the building's new uses to fit in around these old-fashioned spaces.
Building work progressed in as sustainable a fashion as was possible, attempting to minimise environmental impacts, prioritising the recycling of old building materials, and using ecologically certified and naturally-sourced new materials.
After the shedding of much blood, sweat and tears, along with a good fistful of Euros, construction was happily completed in Spring 2008, and since then our beautiful and original house is a daily source of joy for both ourselves and our guests.
Our project asserts the use of earth as a cheap, efficient and healthy locally-sourced natural building material with good insulating properties and great instrinsic beauty.
It is also a statement in defence of the heritage value of Castile's adobe houses, which have played a central role in traditional folk architecture throughout this region as in many others. Being outsiders gives us the perspective to appreciate what locals and authorities alike fail to see; historic, cultural and artistic heritage that is universally looked down upon and rapidly being obliterated.