House on the Cliff
Ibiza, Spain
Project 2004-2005

This project is located in the south west of the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. The site, directly on the coast and stretching 500 metres inland, adjoins the existing property, which is already used by our clients as a holiday home consisting of a main house and annexes. Our brief was to build a retreat on the new site that would offer precisely those qualities that the existing house does not have. Our idea was to create a large pool that would also function as a roof, and to place it as close as possible to the sea – creating a mirroring expanse of water set into the rocky and sandy landscape.

This extensive pool-scape, divided into areas of differing water qualities, actually touches the cliff at only four points. The narrow, elongated living area, free of supports and glazed all round, is cut out of the rock beneath. The back and front of this room, which follows the contours of the coast, are very different. The front, including the patio roughly hewn out of the rock, is open to the sea along its entire length. It stands for views, openness, wind and water. The back gives onto three atrium spaces also hewn out of the rock. These are quiet, sheltered, secluded retreats, filled with aromatic herbs and macchia. In this way, it is possible to look out over the sea or shelter from it, as the mood, the time of day or the season demands.

The main stairway that cuts through the surface of the water and the building itself provides access to the house and patio, while at the same time dividing the large open-space living area into two distinct zones. Only the sleeping area can be visually and acoustically closed off by glass partitions backed with curtains. The kitchen and bathroom are hewn out of the adjacent rock and have large sliding doors set into the rock, allowing them to be turned into covered outdoor rooms. A narrow stair leads from the bathroom directly to the triangular sundeck set into the surface of the water.

The interior sides of the pool are fitted with transparent solar and lunar panels. The underside and the few exterior surfaces on the landside are clad in polished chromium steel. The roof is cantilevered out towards the sea; a two-metre high poolside wall follows the topography and acts as a support. Both are made of roughcast tinted concrete whose texture and colour echo the cliff. The entire roof area is covered with water and a thin film of water even washes the stairs. Seen from the land, the flat monolith dissolves into fragments of light and reflection. Seen from the sea, all that can be discerned is a long, narrow slit in the cliff. The glazing of this aperture is set well back so that is practically invisible.

The idea behind this project is to build what is to all intents and purposes an invisible house, and in doing so, quite literally undermine the building regulations (which stipulate that no building should be closer than 250m to the coastline). This radical design approach is a response to the increasingly stringent building regulations that have been tightened up in recent years to stem the many abuses and illegal developments. The client eventually chose not to have it built because of the possibility of a legal wrangle that might take years to resolve.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2006


Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Partner: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Ascan Mergenthaler
Project Architect: David Koch (Associate), Luis Játiva, Miquel Rodríguez
Project Team: Rodrigo Faria da Costa Lima, Silvia Gil

General Planning: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Architect Planning: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Structural Engineering: R. Brufau, BOMA SL, Barcelona, Spain
Quantity Surveyor: JT Ardèvol & Associats, Barcelona, Spain
Mechanical Engineering: Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany

Building Data:
Site Area: 210,000sqm (Plot)
Building Footprint: 1,299.20sqm
Building Dimensions: Length 70m; Width 22m; Height 5.5m
Gross Floor Area: 563sqm
Facade Surface: 236.30 sqm (Glass Façade)
Number of Levels: 1

700 sqm Swimming-pool on the roof


Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006.
Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 08.2006.