The Power of Positive Architecture

Sophie Gatward-Wicks talks to UDevelopments, the architectural division of UDesign, about how they design their houses.

A dyslectic man who wanted a house designed stood outside two doors of an office building. He knew one was an architect’s office and the other a psychiatrist’s, but wasn’t sure which was which. Then two people walked out of each door, one sobbing uncontrollably and the other laughing like a hyena on nitrous oxide. The man went through the nearest door and walked over to the receptionist: “I’m not sure I’m in the right place,” he said, “but I don’t think it matters.”

Yeah, that’s what having your house designed can feel like, but every major decision in life can be stressful, unless taken with expert council. 


Above: The height of the ceiling in this house is accentuated by the sharply contrasting tones on the outside, and the tall glass doors with no cross frames to break the view upwards.

And expert council means getting it right from the very start, which means finding out how you like to live now and in the future, and where exactly you plan to live.

That means setting out clearly how a house can be designed, and in this, the first of our regular features on architecture, we break it down to three different styles, each directly influenced by the lifestyle of its future occupants and the plot on which the house is to be built. These are:

The Partial U, which is great for the outdoor lifestyle, where the inside goes outside and you can spend your days in the fresh air. An interior terrace garden would be built close to the main lounge, the two becoming one large living area. Night lighting is important here too, perhaps with a bar at the back, a huge barbeque setup amid trees and shrubs and a vertical garden to spice things up.



Above: an example of the ‘Partial U’ where the blurring of the line between inside and out has created a living space eminently suited to the climate in Southern Europe.

The Block Design, which is perfect for a plot with 180 degree views. It can also work very well on a long, thin plot, as the house can be designed in such a way that every single room has a view.

The L Design, which provides privacy on one side and protection from the wind, creating a cosy, private space for the house and its gardens.


Take your pick, but first think carefully about how a particular house style will work for you. What makes it special? Would you love to live in it? The façade is beautiful, but what about the inside? It’s lovely inside, but is the exterior as good?


Above: The classic Block design, simple and elegant, allows for outside views from all the rooms in the house. 


“We made a decision as a company that we would never compromise inside space and light at the expense of the outside. As one would expect, we make the outside as beautiful as possible, with the use of natural materials such as stone, wood and plants, but only when the inside is perfect will we begin to look seriously at the outside.”


Traditionally, one thinks of architects designing the house from the outside, not from the inside out. UDevelopments, do it differently. “All our designs start inside, especially with regard to views and available light, and we seldom know before we start how the outside will look. This may seem illogical to some, but to us it’s the right way to do it, and it’s one of the reasons we are very different from any other architecture and design company.”

“Our buildings are essentially about functionality, style and spatial planning, and even in the supposedly lesser details – the furniture to go into the room, for example – we start backwards: the planning of the furniture begins before the room itself is planned. It’s all about living space, furniture and light.”


Above: Pure symmetry, broken just enough to accentuate its perfection, makes this a house that could have stood here since Roman times. Great architecture is always classical in concept, however old or new that concept may be.

“Sometimes, a house can look like a stunning piece of sculpture from the outside but inside it’s disappointing. The reason we went into architecture was just that: we frequently found it difficult to match inside to out. A square room, to take one example, is clearly not suitable for an open-plan lounge, dining and kitchen area, because it only works properly as a formal lounge. We needed to meet this challenge, and we did.”


“We talk a lot with our clients before starting, about probable occupant numbers, children, family stays, overnight visitors and so on. And about lifestyle, because how people live determines the kind of house they need. We look at the plot at different times of the day, keeping seasons in mind too, and we design for these factors just as much as any views the house might have. Generally, here on the southern coast of Spain, we situate the kitchen on the east side of the house and the main terrace on the west.”


Barbeque positioning is the key to its regular use. Open your kitchen door and it needs to be very close, otherwise it won’t get used. A philosphy that also applies to the swimming pool.

The pool, of course, has become an essential part of life in the sun, and just where it is positioned will again determine how often it will be used. But it’s also a decorative part of the entire house/garden area, reflecting magical light over the terrace during the day and helping to illuminate the area at night.



Above: The location of the pool, extending under the upper structure of the house itself, makes for quick and easy access, and also reflects light over the water surface onto the terrace.

“The pool house, known as a chiringuito in Spain, can add privacy to the terrace, pool and garden if strategically situated, and depending on the plot in question, it can also help protect the entire garden area from the elements while obstructing undesirable views from the house. It should also double as an entertainment space and summer lounge for the family, multifunctional in the right sense of the word.”


Above: the pool is conveniently located right beside the house, as part of the entire living area rather than as a separate feature of the garden.


“Curiously, a house can be too big to be functional. Lovely to look at and dream about, but don’t forget that a lot of lounge needs a lot to furnish it, and you may end up sacrificing comfort and cosiness for something resembling a furniture shop.”


Design starts in the meeting of minds between client and architect, and that includes every aspect of the finished building, from the way the doors open to the exact position of the poolhouse. Getting it right means getting it right from the start.


Above: our last issue featured the interiors of the Concept Villa, and here we show how, on the outside, the light floods into the house through the tall, vertical windows.

UDevelopments have designed and completed luxury villas in some of the world’s most exclusive residential areas, including La Zagaleta and Monte Paraíso in Marbella, and two private villas in the Cayman Islands.

Text by Sophie Gatward-Wicks

UD magazine
This article first
appeared in the
4th issue of
UD Magazine.

Click on the image to read online.