by Jerry ElengicalApr 23, 2022
With widespread connotations of its sustainability, low carbon footprint, proclivity towards passive design applications, and links to vernacular architectural practices, exposed brick is undergoing a resurgence in the sphere of contemporary architecture. Innovations and reinterpretations of its use in construction have yielded a host of exceptional new projects which have elevated the purpose of this ubiquitous material to a degree that could not have been imagined earlier. This is especially true in warmer climates, where its porosity and heat absorbing qualities have been harnessed to great effect, as seen in projects such as the Pirouette House and Red Oasis in India, Casa UC in Mexico, or the Our Lady of Victoria Monastery in Uganda. More recently, in Campana, on the fringes of Buenos Aires in Argentina, local firm Francisco Cadau Oficina de Arquitectura has taken note of this emerging trend, in a new spin on multifamily housing.
Located in a central plot on a street near the banks of the Paraná River, overlooking a sports field, the Damero Building is a five-storey brick edifice replete with stereotomic incisions that outline fenestrations for its housing units. In conceptualising this residential design project, architect Francisco Cadau sought to develop a model of urban densification that accounted for both the needs of a growing city, as well as the traditional mindsets and lifestyles of its residents. In this regard, the layout makes use of a double bay of apartments leading into terraced patios, offering views of the neighbouring avenue as well as sunlight from the east and west.
As a consequence of this arrangement, the façade design exhibits a checkerboard-pattern replete with an assortment of masonry improvisations which infuse rhythm and life into the bold, geometric form. In fact, the use of brick in a plethora of configurations throughout the design is quite impressive by virtue of its sheer diversity. From perforations in wall assemblies that permit airflow inwards, to textural reliefs with angular brick protrusions, or even latticed screens, the building’s faces are a celebration of the incredible versatility of this humble material.
"The envelope is resolved entirely in brick, a material widely and extensively diffused in the culture of the region that constitutes a technically reliable, economically affordable, and environmentally sustainable solution," notes the design team in a press statement. They add, “This technology allows, in turn, the development of a continuous gradient of configurations and surface performances, ranging from the simple enclosure wall to masonry with openwork and variable relief in the form of brise-soleils. In this way, the different thermal, lighting and visual requirements of the program are integrated within a highly efficient and formally continuous building envelope.”
Furthermore, the subtractions in the building's faces avoid the pitfalls of contextual detachment seen in conventional high-rise housing structures, instead forging relationships with its urban surroundings. This measure serves to further embed the residential building into the cultural sphere of a medium-sized provincial city - where the level of urban development has not reached the critical mass necessary to foster the sense of isolation from the natural environment and neighbouring households, as often perceived in larger metropolises. Hence, the subtractions from the brick envelope not only provide avenues for the infiltration of natural light and ventilation, but also forge visual links between residents and the street outside.
Raised atop an extended plinth bridging the street and the centre of the block, the building's ground floor hosts a gradient of intermediate spaces ranging from halls, ramps, thresholds, which subtly delineate the transition from public to private space on moving from the street to the structure’s interior. The main volume of the building retreats from the perimeter of the site, with landscape design concentrated along the setbacks. Existing pine trees on site were conserved as a product of this decision, which also assists in mitigating the visual imposition of the scale of the structure when seen from the street.
Towards the rear, the inclusion of a large square patio eliminated the need to remove an ancient avocado tree that predated this residential architectural intervention. As part of the building’s program, 20 multi-family housing units have been arranged across five levels, with four on each floor. Each unit’s layout is anchored by a grid of four columns placed at the corners, with partition walls outlining different functional areas. This uniform, almost modular arrangement is both a welcome contrast as well as harmonious complement to the building’s external face.
An understated yet lively endeavour combining contemporary sensibilities and urban density requirements with astute use of a material that is steeped in local building traditions, the Damero Building proffers a contextually sensitive and responsible example of high-rise urban housing in an upcoming urban realm near Argentina’s capital.
Name: Damero Building
Location: San Martin 777, Campana, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Program: Residential Building
Area: 1835 sqm
Year of Completion: 2021
Architect: Francisco Cadau
Collaborators: Patricio Cantlon, Federico Cione, Victoria Della Chiesa, Andrea Lanziani, Andres Milos, Diego Valenzuela