This work is the result of a process that begins with the construction in 2004 of a summer house in the forest of Mar Azul with the following premises.
BUILDING IN THE FOREST
We propose choices which guarantee the survival of the natural environment.
Mar Azul is a place well-known for us from time ago, so when we built our first work in 2004, we knew that we have to intervene a land that, despite of its worthy landscape, had never count with a legal support that protect this patrimony of those which built with a unique aim: get the most out of the earth. This land neither count with a code that, understanding the logic of this privileged space, regulate resolving the difference between this inappropriate constructions and the possibility of building without losing the properties of the site. In addition to this situation, the habit of building “picturesque houses in a place of fantasy” is taming slowly the forest, which is nowadays owner of a strong wild presence.
Operating in this site signifies then to assume its misalignment as a challenge and see how far we, the architects, can make an alternative contribution.
The answer was an architecture proposal of minimums resources in the materials and in form, not only as an aesthetic solution but as an ethical principle of recovery the rational use of the different resources available. This architecture must be incorporated to the landscape, seeking to be part of the environment that already exists. To make it possible, it is necessary to know “how to listen” what the sites tell us so the first’s approaches must be free of old prejudices to capture not only the tangible data, but the atmospheres that the place gives us, those which we can only perceive if our views are free of preconceptions. This meant we have to practice the exercise of “seeing for the first time”. To consider the information, letting the place invade us and to imagine how the project itself capitalizes them, all this is fundamental so that architecture and landscape can fuse.
We have already practice this exercise, going to Mar Azul in many opportunities, so we valued the strong presence of the landscape and we had experienced the microclimate the forest provides: the attenuation of the strong sea winds, the constant shadow of the trees protecting from the hot weather in the summer but, at the same time, producing a humid environment in the winter, and the fact that under the pines is smaller the amount of light during the whole year. We also knew that the forest does not require maintenance apart from removing the dry vegetation, unless other species were introduced and break the actual harmony.
Take advantage from what the environment offers
To recognize this particular microclimate was determinant to make choices in the aesthetic and constructive system of the house. It was necessary to gain light allows us to consider the entirely work as a “semi covered”, resolving it by using big glasses which provides, from the inside, great views to the sea and to the landscape; and, from the outside, reflects the nature allowing the work to blend gracefully with it. The necessity to build the work as fast as possible and to have no maintenance makes us choice the reinforced concrete as the constructive solution. The shadow allows us to use this material, because it provides thermal protection from the spring to the autumn and its conditioning in winter was not relevant (though of course it was planned) given its status of summer house. The waterproof insulation was resolved by a high compactness concrete (H21) and is finished with a minimum slope in order to produce a faster runoff of rainwater.
Judicious use of available resources
The expressiveness qualities of the exposed concrete and its properties of resistance and impermeability, make it unnecessary to use a surface finish, gaining a low budget in its execution without a future maintenance. On the other hand, the color and texture of the concrete, made by formwork of wood tables, provides a strong and mimetic presence at the same time, allowing the work to be in harmony with the landscape. In brief, an outer skin made by two materials: glass and concrete, resolve the integration with the landscape and gives us an answer to the Functional, Formal and Structural issues of the surface finish and maintenance.
With the same canon, the resolution of the outdoors activities was the result of making the minimum intervention in the environment. We avoid any kind of landscaping to avoid leaving unnecessary limits expressed in a landscape by now little built, or sectors contrasting with the landscape features of this privileged environment. We like this marked homogeneity of coniferous forest only interrupted now and then for some acacia and, on the other hand, the high grasslands which are the dominant vegetation in the dunes near the sea.
An aesthetic-constructive proposal as prototype
The proposal that our study has been doing in the forest of Mar Azul, so concerned in joining in this environment that originates it, and so far from the stereotypes of the site, has found wide acceptance. There are several commissions for houses with the special request to repeat the same aesthetic constructive solution and that appreciate our proposal of a more relaxed housing. This is certainly very gratifying for us but, in turn, raises the question of how to resolve the issue of repetition of that materiality proposal expressly required. The conclusion is that, if the solution resolves with solvency both integration with its surroundings and the aesthetical, uses and maintenance’s requirements of the clients, it seems logical and ethically correct to keep repeating this materiality proposal as a prototype focusing, with each new assignment, in suit specific applications required by the client and the singularities of the concerned area’s cutout. Thus, the purpose of each new project would be to install increasingly with more strength - assisted by the importance-the idea that what is built in the forest cannot break the landscape unit of that environment, with emphasis on finding ways to transform every house in a "nest or burrow".
Trying to answer these questions we approach the Franz House project.
The ground on which we should intervene is close to the corner, is of small size and the most relevant data presented is a slope of almost three meters from one end to another of a front of only 15 meters. The lot itself is well forested with maritime pine trees of great size, but then the forest is thinned out abruptly. Try to preserve the specimens of the terrain was one of the conditions of the search for solutions.
The request of the clients, a couple with grown children, was a small house of concrete of about 80m ² (such as they had seen in the place) to be used mainly in summer, with only two bedrooms of minimum dimensions and a bathroom, so as to allocate the largest surface to the social area, because they wanted to use it together with friends or with their sons.
The steep slope of the lot, the privacy that it generates regarding the street in most of the front and the need to use the limited space required reducing as much as possible the circulation areas of the given program, are the issues that make this house unique with a constructive aesthetic proposal similar to others built by the studio in Mar Azul.
In response to these factors we decided that the best thing was to propose a very compact house solved in two floors, which occupy the smaller ground surface in order to safeguard the largest number of trees, while noting that this resolution on two levels in this steep slope ground enabled us to put in contact with the ground almost every room in the house. Thus we solved the program within a square floor plan prism leaned against the slope, which has been emptied in a quarter of its volume creating a partially covered outdoor space with double height crossed by two pine trees of great size. This space, for its scale and location in relation to different areas of the house, becomes the main protagonist of this proposal.
The functional organization
The access to the house is defined by the partially covered double height area. From here and through two large windows, you can access the zone developed as a single social area with an integrated kitchen, a small toilet and a stairway leading to the sleeping area. The entrance floor has its larger sides almost completely buried, so it was necessary to bring in the light from the upper floor through an overhead opening on one side and through a high window in the stairwell on the other.
Accessing the second floor via the staircase is an opportunity to feel the presence of the landscape, as one of its sides, fully glazed, allows the sensation of being incorporated into it. Once upstairs, through a small hallway can be accessed to a bathroom with a large window, the guest bedroom overlooking the partially covered and the main bedroom with an expansion to the highest part of the ground through a deck. This expansion terrace, very high regarding the street, enjoys the scenery spectacular views as well as privacy.
The house is constructed of three basic materials: exposed concrete, glass and wood in the outdoor decks. The slabs of the different volumes are supported by walls and exposed concrete reversed beams, and are finished with a minimum slope in order to produce a faster rainwater runoff. It was used the same concrete of the other works in Mar Azul (H21 with fluidizer) a mixture with low amount of water that when forge create a more compact concrete. The floors are of concrete screed cloths divided by plates of aluminum. The openings are of dark bronze anodized aluminum. The heating system, since there is no natural gas in the area, is solved by combining salamander, bottled gas stoves and electric stoves.
Except the beds, couches and chairs, the rest of the equipment of this house is solved in concrete.
Location: Mar Azul, Villa Gesell, Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Architects: María Victoria Besonías, Luciano Kruk.
Collaborator: Arq. Leandro Pomies
Land area: 337 m2
Built area: 87m2
Construction year: 2010
Photos: Gustavo Sosa Pinilla