by Jerry ElengicalJun 10, 2021
When the clients behind Pilará House, a young couple, enlisted Besonías Almeida Arquitectos to design a home outside the city of Pilar, near Buenos Aires in Argentina, they sought an abode that would mirror the charm and spirit of a single-floor country home, albeit infused with the studio's own brand of complex contemporary spatial logic. Located within a country club, the site provided was an irregular corner plot, subtly elevated above its surroundings, with the terrain heeding a gentle sinuous flow resembling a meadow.
"Country clubs have the particular challenge of forcing us to think without all the data provided by a city or any consolidated neighbourhood on the urban periphery," explain the architects. They describe the landscape and characteristics of this type of peri-urban gated community - developed on former ranch lands within the vast Pampas grasslands of the South American continent - as a 'rural urbanisation of large lots’.
At the outset, the clients had given a brief that stipulated a master bedroom, two guest bedrooms, parking for four cars, living, dining, and kitchen areas, a projecting swimming pool connected to the scenery of the Pampean plains, as well as wide verandas. Furthermore, the couple also wished for certain sections to possess higher ceilings that would conspicuously deviate from norms set elsewhere. With this in mind, Besonías Almeida Arquitectos mentions, "The initial proposal was that the architecture should create a landscape of its own, and the challenge was not to give up on that aim. From the first discussions with the client, we made this desire explicit and, as we found total support from them, it was not difficult to overcome the many constraints that arose”.
Reconciling all of the posited constraints and necessities while keeping their aim in clear sight, Besonías Almeida Arquitectos devised Pilará House as a large singular mass occupying the entirety of its legally permitted on-site footprint. From this point, sculpted subtractions from the volume's interior, structured along its orthogonal grid layout, allowed for the formation of courtyards and water bodies in varying scales across its numerous zones. According to the architects, this courtyard-centered layout guaranteed that “living in the house is an experience where the limits between inside and outside are diluted”.
Outside, young species of catalpa and maple trees line the sidewalk along the main road, breaking into a lush, landscaped lawn featuring staggered pavers that guide one towards the entryway of Pilará House. On one side, a slender cantilevered canopy provides shade for the parking spaces. As a statement in textured, horizontally striated concrete, the front facade is interposed with large glazed windows, hidden by quebracho wood panels arranged both as an opaque screen in some sections and vertical slats in others.
Two of the house's sides are screened by quebracho louvres to maintain the inhabitants' privacy from adjoining plots while allowing diffused light to filter indoors. In a sense, this play between the rhythmic wood paneling and its reflected patterns on the home's vast number of exposed concrete surfaces is what imbibes the structure with much of its spatial and experiential character, permeated by a strong sense of linear perspective. "We are interested in working with a very limited palette of materials and we always recommend that the materials chosen are those that age well and require no maintenance," shares the Buenos Aires-based studio.
From the entrance, a succession of closed and open spaces beckons one into the living areas, structured to gradually awaken interest from users without revealing too much all at once. With framed views of the home's various courtyards through glass openings, circulation paths throughout the building are perpetually in communion with nature. Diverging routes branch off into the 'refuge' - a space with a large bed as its centrepiece to relax and watch TV in - as well as the open kitchen, bedrooms, and rear patio.
In the interconnected social area, “a concrete 'piece of furniture' integrates the kitchen, dining room, and the skylight, enriching the space with the changing effects produced by the incidence of light”. Towards the back, the patio, leading into the swimming pool, features lounge seating shaded by a concrete pergola with a large glazed gallery linking it visually to the interior.
With a clear height of 2.60m, the bedroom areas are raised 0.45m above the level of the living spaces to provide variations in height as requested by the clients. To compensate, a gentle ramp near the entrance bridges the levels and lends an element of three-dimensionality to the home's circulation. A corridor overlooking the courtyards on both sides links the isolated master bedroom with its attached bath to the two guest rooms.
The architects were very attentive to the behaviour of light throughout the residential design process, structuring openings as unique perforations into the building's shell rather than standardised units. Further, the recurrent use of slats to filter incident light, combined with carefully proportioned glass openings and incisions into the concrete wall, “define a multiplicity of changing atmospheres that seek to highlight the spatial qualities of indoor environments”.
Reflecting on the final fruit of their labour, Besonías Almeida Arquitectos shares, "Each and every one of the elements that make up this house was the result of a strategy defined at the beginning of the project and of successive operations throughout its development. Although all the actions are linked, some required very specific dedication, approached with the same pleasure that comes with the search for the best solution. Today, both us and the clients are very satisfied with the result”.
Name: Pilará House
Location: Pilar, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Year of Completion: 2021
Architects: Besonías Almeida Arquitectos
Design and Project Management: Arch. María Victoria Besonías, Arch. Guillermo de Almeida
Collaborators: Arch. Micaela Salibe, Hernán de Almeida
Land area: 1538sqm
Built area: 288sqm