1. Home
  2. Architects
  3. Biography
  4. Juan Domingo Santos

Juan Domingo Santos


A leading exponent in the new generation of Spanish designers, Juan Domingo Santos (1961) is an architect and academic renowned for his work on the renovation and conversion of industrial and agricultural brownfield sites.
Graduating from Seville University in 1986, Santos began his career the same year.

The majority of his work from the early Nineties to 2010 is located in the area around Granada, the city of his birth. Since 2011 Santos has worked alongside Pritzker Prize-winner Alvaro Siza (with whom he has collaborated since 1993) on the design of a new visitor center and entrances at the Alhambra fortified palace in Granada.

Juan Domingo Santos has undertaken research and projects focusing on the regeneration of the urban and suburban landscape aimed at creating new dwellings for contemporary society, and new workplaces and social environments. Current affairs and history come together in the wider context of enhancing the Andalusia region.

Following in-depth studies, imagination and personal development, Santos approach to a project is "so meticulous and attentive to the surrounding landscape, and therefore able to simplify and find angles and themes where few would imagine them", ultimately offering "an unexpected discovery of beauty or "serendipity", a term he likes to use, which refers to a fortunate discovery which leads us to subversive experimentation due to total trust in his intuition”.

Santos’ architecture is therefore "a journey to many places (...) in a changing landscape, able to subjugate itself to all the other infinite links to the place that each of his projects has, a landscape that does not wish to manifest itself as the main character but rather an accomplice to the final result. At the same time he offers us a journey through time". (C.A. Azcárate Gómez)
His experiences in locating his design studio in the distillery of a former sugar refinery are significant in this respect. Begun in 1986, the renovation was also the subject of the film An Encounter, produced with director Juan Bollaìn. Other notable projects include the installation of art exhibitions such as “Las fábricas del Sur” about Andalusian industrial traditions (2006).
Santos has designed several houses including the "House in a Cherry Orchard" in Cájar (2006) which was included in the Architecture and Design Collection at MoMA.
Conceived as part of a comprehensive landscape proposal, the House in a Cherry Orchard (...) explores how urban domestic life could be relocated to the cultivated landscape surrounding Granada, providing an alternative to city life without compromising the local agricultural culture" (taken from the MoMA exhibition catalog, On-Site - New Architecture in Spain, 2006).

The project incorporates a raised cherry orchard over the entire area, "like a new topography modified by the rooms of the house. Three areas of the house are set at different levels among the fruit trees. The lowest houses the library, while the study and living room are sited in the orchard. The bedrooms are raised above the canopy of the cherry trees. Depending on the room’s position, you have a different view and relationship with the trees.

The multi-award-winning Water Museum in Lanjaròn (2009) began with a search for a site preferably with a natural water course. Having located a site in the Sierra Nevada National Park (in disused buildings previously used as the municipal abattoir), close to the Lanjarón river with an existing irrigation watercourse, the project reused and recycled existing features on site. The "abattoir buildings were converted into the museum and water from the irrigation infrastructure and river were incorporated into the new structures via a simple series of interconnecting watercourses. An area was created in front of the complex studded with slightly raised, prefabricated reinforced concrete blocks containing various sizes of orange and eucalyptus trees which are temporarily flooded with water (...) The shade and scent of the trees’ orange blossom, the sound of water cascading into the pools containing the tree trunks and reflections in the water when the area is flooded, all create a refreshing atmosphere prior to entering the museum.

Since 2011 Santos has worked with Alvaro Siza on the design for a new visitor center at the historic Alhambra complex in Granada, one of the most important sites of Moorish culture in Europe and officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The two architects have designed a sequence of spaces and courtyards that direct the flow of visitors through the site, with many parts of the route underground, to facilitate and improve visitor access for many thousands of people per day, estimated at around 8,000.
Presented in 2014 at the Visions of the Alhambra exhibition in Aedes am Pfefferberg (Berlin), the project has been suspended, due to the many constraints incumbent on a UNESCO heritage monument.

The exhibition curator, A. Choupina, declared that the project blends nature, past and present, and in equal parts shade, water and trees as key elements (...) This allows the building to become one with the landscape itself, integrating the old agricultural field system with the lower garden elevation".
Nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2007, Santos has won awards on numerous occasions. The Water Museum won the ENOR Grand Prize for Architecture in 2011 and was selected for the XXI Spanish Architecture and Town Planning Biennial in 2011 and the eighth Iberoamerican Biennial for Architecture and Urbanism in 2012.

His professional career is complemented by intensive teaching work which has led to him holding lectures overseas at prestigious universities, including Lausanne Polytechnic, Lisbon School of Architecture, Fachhochschule Lausitz, Cottbus, Germany, Faculty of Architecture and Interior Design, San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador, and Columbia University in New York. He currently lectures at the Technical University, Munich.
Juan Domingo Santos selected works, installations and projects
- Allestimento della mostra “Universos Infinitos” sull’opera di Escher, Palazzo di Carlo V, Granada (Spagna), 2011-2012
- Nuovo spazio per l'accoglienza dei visitatori - Atrio de La Alhambra (con A. Siza, progetto), Granada (Spagna), 2011 - in corso
- Museo Santiago Ydanez (progetto), Puente de Génave, Jaèn (Spagna), 2010
- Museo dell’acqua, Lanjaròn, Granada (Spagna), 2009
- Abitazione "Casa para un mago" (progetto), Granada (Spagna), 2008
- Riqualificazione ex Fabrica Azucarera, San Isidro, Granada (Spagna), 2007
- Abitazione "Casa patio sin suelo", Barranco del Abogado, Granada (Spagna), 2006
- Abitazione "Casa en zigzag" (progetto), La Punta de la Mona, Granada (Spagna), 2004
- Allestimento della mostra “Las fabricas del sur" sull’architettura industriale in Andalusia, Vecchia fabbrica di artiglieria di Siviglia (Spagna), 2006
- Abitazione "Casa en un huerto con cerezos", Cájar, Granada (Spagna), 2006
- Spazio della cultura contemporanea (progetto), Atarazanas, Siviglia (Spagna), 2004
- Abitazione "Casa en landera", Otura, Granada (Spagna), 2006
- Alloggi turistici temporanei tra le serre, Playa de Calahonda, Granada (Spagna), 2003
- Estensione del cimitero di Casabermeja, Malaga (Spagna), 2003
- Museo del vetro (progetto), Castril, Granada (Spagna), 2002
- Abitazione "Casa de la Lona", tra le macerie dell'Albaicín, Granada (Spagna), 2000
- Abitazione "Casa entre medianeras", Barrio de San Matías, Granada (Spagna), 1999
- Installazione di vetro Alcázar di Siviglia (Spagna), 1995
- 15 alloggi sociali Cijuela, Granada (Spagna), 1994
Official website

Related Articles: Juan Domingo Santos

Related Articles


Atelier Régis Roudil Architectes designs a nursery in wood and raw earth in Paris

The Atelier Régis Roudil Architectes studio has created a nursery in wood and raw earth...



Designing with nature, the history and future of the garden on display at the Vitra Design Museum

Presented in a setting designed by the Italian studio Formafantasma, the Vitra Design Museum's...



The colours and atmospheres of the Alpine landscape inspire the interior design of the 5-star Falkensteiner Hotel Montafon

The new Falkensteiner Hotel Montafon is a 5-star resort among the woods and mountain slopes of...



Stay in touch with the protagonists of architecture, Subscribe to the Floornature Newsletter