The House of Forking Paths

The House of Forking Paths
A project by Borja Lomas [Voluar Arquitectura]

In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not think of time as absolute and uniform. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. This web of time – the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries – embraces every possibility.
Jorge Luis Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths.

Albert Einstein showed us that space cannot be conceived independently from time; both concepts are mutually interrelated in an unbreakable way. They intertwine to form the framework on which we exist and, like the two-faced god Janus, presents the same essence, but with two tied polarities: space-time.
Architects often talk about the qualities of space, but we seldom reflect on the temporal essence it carries. Spatial limits and configurations imply different temporal perceptions. Because space without time becoming a static and flat image, loses its depth.
This branching configuration, so distant from the paradigm of the Box or the unique homogenous space, pushes us to explore and understand it by walking it. It encourages us to invest time and explore the temporal condition of space and how its possible paths and bifurcations form a riddle whose key is time.

A complete glance in a brief instant is not possible because there is no privileged point of view, no fixed perspective that represents and explains the entire dwelling. The house does not establish itself as a static stage; as we move, planes and gaps open up, visual perspectives close successively and hide away. With each step, the space changes and unfolds with our body’s movement. Whether inside or outside, each viewpoint has particular and changing considerations throughout the day, and natural light writes, through changing shadows the continuous unfolding of time.
Its materiality, steel, also speaks of perpetual change, rusting over time like living matter. The glass with its ever-changing reflections blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior, incorporating the garden into domestic space. Only the curved mirror housed within can break with the conventional flow of space-time, distorting it to show overlapping spaces of impossible time and quantum superposition in an instant.
We cannot stop time, but we can build spaces that make its perception more noticeable, “densify time,” even if it’s just an illusion…

It is admirable to see how nature creates diversity through mechanisms that link identity and inherited information from a long evolutionary journey and the indeterminacy of the context. Epigenetics constitutes a system of interdependence between the genetic program of living beings and the environment, creating specific and always different solutions. We observe how flowers lose the perfect geometry that would indicate their genetics and incorporate deformations and adaptations according to environmental conditions such as wind, orientation, topography, the amount of free space to grow or interactions with other plants. Faced with this link between precision and indeterminacy shown by nature, the words of Alvar Aalto resonate in our heads when he wrote that “the most important model of architecture is nature, not the machine.”

The House of Forking Paths follow this creative process. It begins with a program that considers the genetics that the construction must contain to satisfy the needs of a family of Mediterranean culture, where the family nucleus is continually expading by grandparents, relatives, and friends, requiring a flexible space that can be deployed or retracted according to the changing needs of each moment. These genes or spaces are the instructions that mark and are linked to activities; however not in a direct relationship between space-function. Instead, they will be activated and deactivated according to the different uses given by those who inhabit them.
The gene-spaces take simple geometric shapes, basic familiar rectangular pieces in which spatial needs are analyzed in terms of surface, height, lighting frontage, and ventilation, as well as possible simple and effective furnishings. Strange distributions that could complicate or limit the free use of space or restrict the placement of standard furniture are avoided.
Once each gene of the program has been synthesized, they are distributed so that chains are generated, sequences of programs in terms of the degrees of relationship and linkage that have been established between them. In this way, programmatic codes are created that are located both in plan and in section, depending on the degree of privacy offered by the space and its communication with the outside.
Branching is an effective method for conquering space in continuity allowing adaptation to a specific context and different situations. It is a common strategy in nature that we can see from the circulatory systems of living beings, plant growths or river arrangements. Similarly, the bodies of the house branch out following lines that bypass the trees, closing towards the street, self-protecting from the north wind and unfolding towards the south orientation to find the best views of the landscape and dialogue with nearby forest. Therefore, the final form of the house is a “found form,” resulting from the intersection between the place and internal program needs, and not a preconceived and imposed form. The house is the result of a specific exploration not transferable to another context, an unrepeatable encounter.”

Arquitectura: Borja Lomas [Voluar Arquitectura]
Dirección de obra: Borja Lomas
Date: 2023
Location: Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, España
Photography: Imagen Subliminal (Rocío Romero + Miguel de Guzman)

Architects: VOLUAR

Calle Goya 69, 2º Ext
29001 Madrid


Pablo Rodríguez Mesa es arquitecto titulado por la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM 1990). Con estudio profesional abierto desde 1990.

Borja Lomas Rodríguez es arquitecto titulado por la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM 2002). Máster en Proyectos Arquitectónicos de Avanzados. Doctorando en el Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos Avanzados.

En 2006, fundan el estudio Voluar Arquitectura, creando proyectos que se basan en aportar soluciones arquitectónicas adaptables, fruto de un contexto específico, acordes con el entorno, el paisaje y el programa. Entre los límites de lo permanente en la Arquitectura y la incertidumbre de las acciones humanas. Entre sus principales trabajos destacan Edificio Dotacional para la Comisaría de Fuencarral- El Pardo en Madrid, 368 Viviendas públicas en Getafe, la Rehabilitación del edificio en la calle Santa María 8 de Málaga. Actualmente están desarrollando el proyecto para la futura sede del Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía y Archivo Lafuente en la antigua sede del Banco de España en Santander.

Other projects from the architect