The studio Francés + Sastre wins the DOM3 Architecture Prize

Architects Simón Francés and Judith Sastre, from the Madrid studio Francés + Sastre Architects, won the DOM3 Prize 2014, an international architecture prize. It was announced by the Association of Businesses for High-Quality Housing (DOM3) and they received the award at an evening event held at La Zagaleta.
Architects Simón Francés and Judith Sastre, from the Madrid studio Francés + Sastre Architects, won the DOM3 Prize 2014, an international architecture prize. It was announced by the Association of Businesses for High-Quality Housing (DOM3) and they received the award at an evening event held at La Zagaleta. The winners presented their Belvedere project, which, according to the jury, was notable for its simplicity and the way that the architecture respects the environment and the site.
The prize is 40,000 euros and the construction of the villa on a plot in the luxurious La Zagaleta complex, which sponsored the competition.
First of all, we must congratulate you for winning the prize. Can you describe to us what was asked of you in this competition?
Thank you very much. We are very proud to be the winners of the first edition of the DOM3 Prize. As architects, we are very excited at having the opportunity to build a luxury house in La Zagaleta.  By winning an international competition judged by a renowned jury which looked at more than 100 proposals, we now have a golden career opportunity. We have to thank the Association of Businesses for High-Quality Housing (DOM3) for holding the competition and La Zagaleta for giving up one of its plots so that we can build the villa.
As well as meeting certain physical requirements, projects had to show that there had been thought about the components which could produce the maximum expression of design, quality and location in a luxury house.
The proposals had to outline a piece of architecture which could establish a close relationship between the surrounding landscape and the high-quality interior spaces.
In your opinion, what are the key aspects of your "Belvedere" project that has made it the winning proposal?
We think that the main reason why the jury decided that our proposal should be the winner was the radical relationship the house establishes with its surroundings. 
From the beginning, we were clear that the idea for the project had to come from the dialogue that was established between the house, the magnificent views and the distinct topography of the plot.
Our proposal outlines a villa which is not dominantly positioned, but instead is built downwards, bringing its roof level with the highest point of the land. Therefore, when you approach the house, its façade is not visible and instead you are greeted by a large garden surrounded by water features, groves of trees and small plantations, which enables you to enjoy the unbeatable views of the distant horizon. 
At the end of the path through the garden, there is a hole in the terrace which creates a hollowed-out courtyard. Once you are down in the courtyard, you experience a completely different relationship with the surroundings, as you are surrounded by a plantation of fruit trees and your only relationship with the outside world is through the sky. 
In short, the villa is not outlined as something that imposes on the site, but as an exploration mechanism which takes control of the landscape via a pathway.
How does the site influence the design?
As we have said, the surroundings have a fundamental role in the design of the project, but as architects, we like to think that architecture does not solely depend on its physical site. There is a tendency to think that projects only respond to the plot of land where they are located, but in reality they meet other aims (social, economic, construction) which should be met at any given time. 
In this case, we would highlight the economic consideration above the others, not only because the villa will be aimed at a customer profile that has high purchasing power, meaning that it must have a high level of quality and sophistication, but also because we think that the house must also help to consolidate and strengthen luxury residential tourism in Marbella, and therefore improve the economy of the area.
What do you think of the projects presented by the two finalists?
On the whole, the level of the proposals from the finalists has been quite high.  It must have been difficult for the jury to select the best projects. 
With "Casa de los Naranjos", which received first honourable mention, it is worth highlighting its additive system of different parts on the plan, which can break up the volume, making the resulting building smaller.
We are interested in the approach of "The Mountain Top House", which was awarded second honourable mention, which is completely different to the other finalist and tries to fit the entire house plan under a single folded-plate roof. The plan is also adapted to the topography of the site.
When are you going to build the villa?
It is still too soon to know when construction work will begin - the competition has only just finished. We will put in all the passion, energy and work we can to ensure that this project will become reality as soon as possible. I am sure that the Association of Businesses for High-Quality Housing (DOM3) will help us in every way it can and La Zagaleta will have as much involvement as possible to speed up the development of the project and the subsequent construction of the villa.
What other projects are you developing at the moment?
At the end of last year, we won first prize in the San Francisco Space Park international competition in Puerto de la Cruz. Currently, we are developing a project which will have a multifunctional auditorium with a capacity of 700 seats and the new home of the Eduardo Westerdahl Museum of Contemporary Art. We are also working on a project for 25 single-family homes in Madrid, which is exploring interesting passive solutions for energy saving.
What kind of attitudes do you believe that an architect should have?
In our opinion, an architect must be a professional who, among many other things, must have a creative attitude and, of course, we think that the creative process must be closely linked to a positive attitude towards life.
In the studio we like to read An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth by the designer Bruce Mau from time to time, which sets out in 43 points many of the attitudes which we think must be present in the creative process. We would encourage you to read it.
With this positive attitude which we have mentioned in mind, we hope that the development of this project and its subsequent construction will enable us to take on future projects and continue growing.