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Nasrid house

The Nasrid house beside the mosque occupies a trapezoidal plot of 215 m2 and is arranged around a 47 square-metre-courtyard. Prior to the initial intervention undertaken by Torres Balbás in 1929, it had already been purchased by the State, despite it being occupied by some of the workers of the Alhambra. Plans in the Council of the Alhambra Archives, dated 1934 and undertaken in connection with the expropriation of the home of Antonio Barrios, “El Polinario”, show the boundaries of the three properties on the site: the Alamedilla of the Partal Palace to the north, calle Real to the south, callejón del Guindo to the east and callejón de la Sacristía to the west. However, in 1934 the Nasrid house was situated between two party walls; to the east it adjoined another dwelling house, which was demolished just a few years later on account of its dilapidated state. The façade of the building in question faced onto calle Real and protruded beyond the Nasrid house. When the former was demolished, the entrance to callejón del Guindo was widened and, as a result, the eastern gallery of the Nasrid house, whose structure appears to have been altered considerably during subsequent renovations, was eliminated.

Years after Torres Balbás had completed his last work on this house (in 1936), he described the layout and construction system in an article published in 1945: “the house adjoining the bath in the east has not been explored in full. It was built at a later date and advantage was taken of the bath’s eastern wall, which was made of brick. The remaining walls are sloped and made of rammed earth or mud. The south façade, aligned with that of the bath, is built on the same foundation of very hard concrete. (...) As is usual, the centre of the room contains a rectangular courtyard with a pond and is paved with 0.37 x 0.30-m fired clay tiles; in the west wall there is a long narrow room which would once have had a portico in front of it. This was accessed by a door which is not centred with respect to the axis of the courtyard, and which had ta?qas (ornamental niches) in the jambs and two small semicircular windows overhead. Around this are traces of plasterwork, plaster casts like those in the tower of the bath. The decorative motif of the former is a 9–12-bow, where the blank spaces have been adorned with arabesques. (...) In addition to the aforementioned nave, the one enclosing the courtyard on the south was reconstructed, and retains traces of arches with spandrels decorated with carved plaster. All of this part occupied just one floor; the upper floor that was added at a later date featured traces of paintings (....)”. To complete this description, it can be added that the house had a typical Nasrid layout in that it was arranged around a courtyard with a pond and the rooms were organised around this. Nowadays only two galleries remain: those to the west and south of the courtyard, with the latter looking onto calle Real. According to the architect Antonio Orihuela, there are clear indications that there was originally another gallery in the north, of which only a wall remains, and this has been rendered somewhat unstable on account of the openings in it. With regard to the western side, it is almost certain that this would originally have had a portico, behind which was a doorway that provided access to a salon that connected to the entrance hall. Traces of the original decoration on this entrance, except for the arch, have survived, and it is therefore likely, as Orihuela has suggested, that there was once a portico to protect the decorative plasterwork. In this respect, let us not forget that Ibn al–Yayya?b sang paeans of praise for this house in a panegyric intended for Muhammad III. As Puerta Vílchez has pointed out, the only inscription that has survived can be found in the façade of the western gallery facing the courtyard, where we can see rectangular panels, identical to those on the walls of the room with the lantern in the adjacent baths, featuring eight and sixteen-pointed stars in Moresque latticework. This inscription is the only one of its kind in the Alhambra, although it can also be found in the Generalife. In addition, as pointed out earlier, some records suggest that this house had a fourth gallery towards the east, which may have been split up to form, together with the building adjoining it in the south, the house mentioned earlier, which was demolished in the late 1930s. 

Let us not forget that the unidentified remains of a foundation have been discovered to the north of the area comprising the baths and the Nasrid house; of particular note is a large pond with a similar orientation to that of the baths, suggesting that this might have been part of the original complex and was possibly used to supply the baths with water. This hydraulic construction was discovered during excavations carried out in the 1950s. Measuring 15.81 x 3.01 m, it had a maximum depth of 1 m and its longitudinal axis was parallel to calle Real.


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