A 16th-Century Ruin Becomes A Modernist Lair, For $300 A Night

This 16th-century vacation rental pushes the boundaries of historic preservation.

In New York, “old construction” usually means pre-war. In Girona, which has been under siege more than 24 times, residents might ask you “which one?” Alemanys 5, a newly restored rental unit in the small Spanish town, invites tourists to sleep in an apartment built when Girona was still a powerful medieval city with a bustling Jewish quarter.


The structure was renovated in 2010 year by local architect Anna Noguera, who writes that no one is certain when the apartment was originally built, but that “the most important renovation dates from the sixteenth century.” Girona, which sits about 60 miles north up the coast from Barcelona, has hosted Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Napoleonic troops alike. Still, its medieval town center is largely intact, and in the past two decades its medieval quarter has been largely restored.

Since it is nestled against one of Girona’s original city gates, it was no easy task to navigate the building’s layers of additions and renovations. Noguera, whose husband manages the rental property, divided the old structure into two discrete apartments, El Badiu (the Porch) and El Gardi (the Garden), which share a courtyard and pool (they can be rented separately or together). She stripped the structure of most of its post-Medieval character, peeling back layers of additions and renovations to reveal its original details while respecting its structural logic. “The building is freed of additions, surface elements and recent reforms,” she writes, “interpreting the old elements not so much through an historical optic as through their architectural qualities.”

Noguera left much of the 16th-century stone and timber raw, while resurfacing the rest with a subdued material palette of cor-ten steel, concrete, and oak. Much of the material she was forced to remove during the renovation was repurposed–the courtyard’s paving stones come from the cladding she removed from the house’s walls. The interiors are unabashedly modern, following contemporary thinking on functional preservation pioneered by architects like Jorge Otero-Pailos, who believes that historic restoration should (and must) bear the fingerprint of its author. Noguera’s architectural fingerprint is detailed in sleek cor-ten fireplaces, brushed aluminum pendant lights, and a shadowy, elegant pool.

A night in El Badiu or El Gardi will cost you around €275, while renting out both spaces runs about €500 a night.

[H/t Design Milk]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.