It is becoming apparent that when it comes to architectural gems, treasure often lies at the end of an old dirt road.
In the Castellon Hills of Les Usères is one such road leading to an immensity of land that serves as a large, earthy canvas. At the center is a holiday home in Spain that Dutch artist Xander Spronken built: An “art house”, a home that is at once a sculpture and a house greets you with its host of 6-meter high concrete pillars that do not loom so much as they soar.
Spronken approaches architecture the way he does all his artpieces. Negative space is valued as much as positive mass, air and void animated by light and the inexplicable emotion of volume. Speaking of the many towering doors that connect the indoors with the out, he says, “I make the doors high because…why half? I go on until it feels good.”
Spronken House is a sprawling 310 square meters of living space encompassing four bedrooms, four baths and two pools. The dimensions offer air and space in the noblest sense. Its proportions have a long-legged allure that invoke a prehistoric awe of nature. Spronken loves “pure things”, as he puts it, which explains the elements that are left as raw as possible: dense unvarnished wooden beams that speak of trees that continue to live, forged iron hinges and frames, sweeping panels of glass. There is no burden of heft in this enormous structure. On the contrary, there is an airiness that arises from the play of light, indoor/outdoor perspectives, and delicately framed views of the Iberian Mountains, no doubt thanks to the mastery of multi-layered form that Spronken is known for.
It appears the idea of a livable sculpture, or sculpture one can live in, came as a natural realization after the fact. Spronken had built this house drawing from the same source he does for his sculptures. And so, how is it not a sculpture? It is the way of seeing that makes the difference. It certainly heightens Spronken’s own enjoyment of the house. There is a palpable delight in his voice when he says “This is a piece of art that you can use…I like this very much because you can dwell around it. And in much sculptures, I can’t… It’s really nice to be here, and to just sit here, and enjoy it. The other sculptures I enjoy also but you don’t sit it in. You are not all the time with it, together.”
Such is the interest of art we can live in: A communion with the piece, a simple, almost affectionate enjoyment of being together. Spronken’s nephew Joris Dassen has taken to the task of sharing, opening up his uncle’s sculpture to like-minded guests, an invitation to discover and comprehend the artwork that unveils itself to those who take the time.
Wifi throughout, Bluetooth speaker, climate control, kitchen and bath essentials, laundry facilities.
Equidistant from Valencia and Barcelona, the little village of Les Useres in the Castellon region lies just a half hour from the coast and has been relatively undisturbed by tourism.
A deeply rural, old world region, the lifestyle remains as it has here for hundreds of years, with lovely hilltop villages, ancient castles, vast farms, shepherds tending their flocks and olive and almond groves.
Every Spring for over seven hundred years, the pilgrims of Les Useres set out on a days long pilgrimage to the sacred mountain of Penyagolosa, not unlike the famous Camino de Santiago, where they are joined by locals, a procession of animals and village priests along pathways that date back to the Bronze Age.
The region’s seaside capital, Castellon de la Plana is a unique mix of modern resort town blended with lovely historic mansions, plazas, a central market and a pedestrian-friendly town center with excellent cafes, nightlife and shops.
Flanked by the popular Playas Gurugu, Serradal and Del Pinar, the beaches are a a half hour from the house. The Columbretes Islands National Park are a thirty mile boat ride off shore and worth a visit.
Les Useres, Spain. Nearest Airport: Castellón (mainly private airplanes, 20 min.), Valencia Airport (1hr), Barcelona – El Prat 2.5 hrs), Alicante – Eche Airport (2hr 45 min).
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Year round
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