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Designed for living  

The story of Sotogrande’s ground-breaking architectural ingenuity 

Words by Andrew Forbes 

“We are always working in dialogue with nature” confirms Manuel Ruiz Moriche, partner and principal architect of ARK Architects, as he unveils NIWA, an architectural masterpiece that promises the perfect balance between privacy and connection with nature.  

ARK Architects are part of an emblematic group of world-class architects who have shaped the built environment in Sotogrande, including L35 Architects, who conceived the innovative Village Verde community, the acclaimed Jaime López de Asiaín, the talent behind breathtaking architecture at The Collection, and Fran Silvestre Architects, whose imaginative creations form part of The Seven. 

For the past 60 years the exclusive residential community of Sotogrande has led the way in the development and construction of exceptional homes. NIWA, conceived by ARK Architects, is the latest icon of Sotogrande’s unique status as one of the world’s most desirable and sought-after residential communities. 

The story begins well before the early 1960s when the visionary Colonel Joseph McMicking first envisaged a Mediterranean community echoing the lifestyle community of Palm Beach, Florida. 

Sotogrande’s sun-splashed shores were first shaped by ancient civilisations, including the Phoenicians, Romans, and the Moors of Al-Andalus. Each of these cultures left its mark on the architectural landscape, influencing the use of materials, construction techniques, and design elements. 

As we take a journey through the architectural evolution of homes in Sotogrande, each property style illustrates a new chapter. 

Inspired by tradition  

The more traditional Andalusian villa architecture of Sotogrande, as captured in the iconic photography of Slim Aarons in the 1970s, is full of romantic references. Brilliant sunlight ricochets off whitewashed walls, while domes, terraces, courtyards, and internal patios with fountains, geometric decoration, and ornate tile work, all echo Roman and Moorish heritage. In 2008, the local government declared three of such houses as buildings of cultural interest, including the Biddle House by Francisco Javier Carvajal, the Zobel House by José António Coderch and the Real Club de Golf de Sotogrande, by Luis Gutierrez Soto.  

Later came properties reflected the Hacienda style which fused the romantic notion of an Andalucian home with the beauty of a ranch style property with white walls, terracotta roofs, and hand forged wrought-iron details. Outdoor living was celebrated with expansive terraces and outdoor salons, and dining areas, with views to the Mediterranean. 

Unparalleled living  

In the 21st century Sotogrande’s signature architecture continued to evolve and change, with the emergence of innovative villas responding to changing tastes, new technologies, and a greater emphasis on the outdoor active lifestyles of owners. 

Mediterranean modernism has defined recent decades, as Sotogrande has become a year-round destination for families. The shift towards contemporary villa architecture is coupled with a desire for larger properties with more comprehensive facilities, including dedicated spaces for home working, exercise, relaxation, and entertainment. 

Alongside this, are the latest cutting-edge technologies which have enabled design firms like ARK Architects to utilise new materials and the latest construction methods that enhance sustainability, reducing energy costs while also harmonising each design within the natural environment. 

One of the defining characteristics of contemporary villa architecture in Sotogrande is the emphasis on integrating the natural environment into the design. The goal is a harmonious relationship between the built environment and nature.  

Discovering NIWA 

This approach is truly embodied by NIWA. Taking its name from the Japanese for garden, this extraordinary property promises a place of contemplation, peace, relaxation, secluded in nature. “This is what clients are searching for in Sotogrande” continues Manuel Ruiz of ARK Architects. “They looking for nature, for sport, for family life and for privacy, within reach of world-class facilities and services.” 

La Reserva, in the heart of Sotogrande, an internationally diverse and private enclave, is where one finds the unique concept of The Seven, where renowned international architects, including Fran Silvestre Architects, have created magnificent properties, where owners can enjoy the unprecedented Sotogrande lifestyle of world class golf, polo, tennis, sailing, and water sports as well as destination dining and international gastronomy. 

ARK Architects was specially selected and invited to design a contemporary masterpiece that would blend effortlessly into the landscape and honour Sotogrande’s extraordinary views. With great respect for the space and nature, the collaboration between The Seven at Sotogrande and ARK has resulted in NIWA. This extraordinary retreat transcends conventional boundaries and seamlessly blends with the environment. The project draws inspiration from the beauty of the surrounding Mediterranean nature.  

NIWA appears to emerge directly from the landscape, its structures are interwoven with the environment, creating a sense of peace, balance, and security for its residents. 

Environmental technology 

“We have used cutting-edge smart systems with NIWA” confirms Manuel Ruiz. ARK has implemented the latest aerothermal and photovoltaic capture technologies, as well as innovative bioclimatic design by ARK means that NIWA has several courtyards designed as climatic spaces, used to control shade, temperature, and natural air ventilation, as well, of course, as spaces to use and enjoy, while maintaining a constant and comfortable 21 degrees centigrade throughout the year.  

As awareness of environmental impact grows, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainability and eco-responsible design in Sotogrande’s villa architecture. Many new developments are incorporating energy-efficient features, green roofs, and rainwater harvesting systems, to minimise their environmental impact.  

ARK Architects have led the revolution in elite villas in Sotogrande, creating residences that reflect the diverse requirements of modern families, such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and home spas including steam rooms and saunas. Luxury lifestyle facilities include home cinemas, as well as extensive entertaining spaces, including features like wines cellars. Beyond landscaped gardens, owners demand staff accommodation and generous garaging. 

Maintaining a diverse community with different home types for couples, as well as families, Sotogrande also has developed the latest community living, as embodied by Village Verde, by L35 Architects. Reimagining the traditional notion of a village this elegant collection of apartments, penthouses and villas offer a compelling place for modern living, built around a village centre, and set within a natural parkland. This gives residents a chance to connect with nature, while having everything they need on their doorstep. The properties offer the ultimate in contemporary open plan living, and eco-friendly design. 

As Sotogrande embraces modernity, there is also a reassuring renaissance of interest in the area’s historic villas which are being restored, maintaining an important element of the destination’s cultural identity, and underscoring the importance of honouring the past while embracing the future in Sotogrande. 

This is how the story of villa architecture in Sotogrande continues to be written, as a dynamic interplay between tradition and innovation, history, and modernity, and the natural and built environments. 

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