After building several houses in Costa Esmeralda,
Argentina and captivated as we were by the place, my girlfriend Ekaterina and I
set up to project one for ourselves there. We wanted a house where we could
stay for short periods of time, suitable for having friends over and,
eventually, for rental. Costa Esmeralda is located thirteen kilometers north
off the city of Pinamar and four hours away from Buenos Aires.
Lines of maritime pines occupied the lot, an almost
virgin sand dune. Regarding the terrain’s topography, while there is a two
meters slope from side to side, it descends longitudinally in a soft slant
toward the sea.
Two were the reasons for choosing the materiality.
On the one side, having built other houses in exposed
concrete, we knew this material stays in good conditions for a long time
practically with no maintenance. On the other, we thought its color and texture
would establish a harmonious dialogue with the place’s natural surroundings.
Widespread, bright and intimately related to the
outside, the social area should be the most important part of the house; the
private area should comprise four bedrooms, as independent from one another as
possible, each of them with its own bathroom. We aimed at developing most of
the plan in a single level and at having a greater outdoor area in a higher
level, where water should be present and where we could contemplate the
striking natural environment from. We agreed that the trees and the terrain’s
particular topography were jewels the architectural project should respect.
Aiming at producing some contrast for the senses, to
enter the house one must go from a gloomy semi covered space, through a narrow
staircase enclosed by blind exposed concrete walls and, finally, into an open
bright area: the main floor.
Regarding the main floor’s design, in order to give
every room as much privacy as possible, each one was located in a corner of
this quadrangular floorplan. The central hall would house the social
activities. Helping to organize this area, a stairway going up to the rooftop
lies at the heart of the floorplan and gives order to the space as it separates
the kitchen and dining area on one side, and the living room on the other.
The bedrooms’ –and their bathrooms’– equipment was
detached from the house’s outline, thus freeing its supporting walls.
On the topographically highest side, where the main
floor’s platform stands on the natural ground, the side wall was reduced to a
hanging partition opening the interior to the outside through a longitudinal
lower crack that protects the inner space from the looks of the neighboring
lot. On the lowest side, in which the house hangs two meters above the natural
terrain, a low wall with a high longitudinal opening constituted the outline.
Both solutions allowed for outdoor visuals and spaces full of natural light,
without losing the inside’s privacy.
While the sides were closed by blind walls with
horizontal cracks, both the front and the rear were enclosed by a transparent
barrier occupying the box’s whole width and height that directs the views and
frames the visuals. On the rear, the opening framings help the inside expand
into the semi covered deck and merge into the outdoor space.
The concrete’s own malleability allowed the stairs to
be conceived as an autonomous sculptural element. The walls that separate the
bedrooms from the central area were treated with the same expressive
plasticity, thus generating niches and protruding volumes that function as
With regards to the house’s illumination and given the
floorplan’s depth, it was decided that the natural lighting would be reinforced
from the rooftop. The crystal box containing the stairs bathes the social
area’s center in sunlight. Linear cracks were incorporated into the inner
partitions that limit the kitchen-dining sector in search of different natural
light effects throughout the day on their surface. Also, the bathrooms were
illuminated by means of skylights placed over the showers.
Embraced by the pines’ canopies, a peaceful
contemplation space unfolds on the rooftop. Due to the transparency of the box
containing the stairs, views in all directions can be experienced. Covered by a
wooden deck and furnished by a shower area and two adjacent swimming pools,
this viewing space is enriched by the sight of the sea.
We built a box amid a slice of nature and, by letting the exterior flow in and out through it, we made it a constituent part of its environment. Thus, the box and its surroundings merge and vibrate in consonant harmony. Through its spatial synthesis and the simple character of its materiality, we intended the house to wake its inhabitants’ perceptions and to maximize their senses, as in the mystic reciprocity the often appears between people and things.