Llafranc House

Palafrugell, Spain

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In 2016 Lindy Leuschke of Leuschke Group Architects in Auckland, was approached by a New Zealand resident to assist in the design of her substantial new house in Spain.

The site is in Llafranc, an upmarket coastal village on the Costa Brava, approximately 90 kilometres north of Barcelona. It faces south, towards the sun, over an idyllic harbour and the Mediterranean Sea.

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Lindy agreed to a collaborative process, assisting in design with documentation by local Spanish architects. Lindy travelled to Spain for a site visit to better understand the site and the brief in context. She spent a week studying the site and researching the requirements of the local building authorities.

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On returning to Aotearoa, New Zealand, Lindy approached the project as she would with any house design, interviewing and listening to her client, reviewing site conditions, and responding to local council requirements.

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The brief for the new home was substantial, including six car basement garaging, staff quarters, swimming pool and maximisation of the extensive views over the beach, harbour, and Mediterranean Sea.

Communication was done digitally using skype and face time. Although common nowadays this was reasonably novel pre- Covid.

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Dealing with the local Catalan council proved complex and political. The council Architect was all powerful, taking umbrage with design features such as a circular staircase to the pool. As a result this was replaced with traditional stairs.

After much waiting, and the engagement of a planning barrister, the Proyecto Basico (first consent) was granted, much like a New Zealand Resource Consent. This was followed by the Proyecto de Ejecucion. This is the equivalent to a New Zealand Building Consent but much less detailed as the site architects take full responsibility for the building's performance, rather than relying on Council staff.

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The search for the right local documentation architect started while Lindy was in Llafranc and was continued by the client over the next few months. Eventually, a local female practitioner, Melanie Xargay Roberts, was found to be the perfect fit for the project. Melanie is fluent in English and Spanish, which was an asset to both Lindy and the client.

Melanie’s skills were vital for the project, including translation and re- dimensioning in centimetres (rather than the millimetres used in New Zealand and Australia). Melanie lodged the Proyecto de Ejecucion consent and became the Architect responsible for construction. She was assisted by technical architect Mariona Roca Mico.

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As with any construction of this complexity, quality and sensitive surroundings, there were many issues to resolve. Each problem that came up during construction was resolved collaboratively and rationally by the four women leading the design: the client, Lindy, Melanie, and Mariona.

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Throughout the design and documentation process (completed pre-Covid), and the construction process (undertaken during Covid), the female design team and local contractors maintained positive communications and goodwill, resulting in a magnificent villa overlooking one of the most famous shores of the Mediterranean. Proudly designed and largely documented in Aotearoa, New Zealand the villa was completed in 2021.

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Today, all four women remain in touch and look forward to raising a glass of Champagne together in Llafranc to celebrate their achievement.