by Pooja Suresh HollannavarSep 11, 2023
A project's location often intimately informs the architecture of the structure. In the Cangahua House by Diez + Muller Architects in Tumbaco, Ecuador, the influence of the site context works on multiple levels. The overall form references the large landscape of the region while the massing of the project is driven by its immediate landscape. The residential design project sits on an incline and uses the contoured nature of the site to its advantage, allowing the house to be accessed on two levels. The route to the house from the street is a sinuous slope that leads to a parking garage.
Approximately 10 meters higher than the street, the house sits in the middle of the plot. Diagrammatically one could look at the house as a mass at the centre of the natural slope of the plot. Using the site's natural gradient, the mass of the structure incorporates strategic voids that become internal courtyards and gardens. Contained by concrete retaining walls, these cut-outs open up the layout and create versatility within the circulation. The open to sky voids also help ventilate and light the large interior rooms.
The homes on the top of a slope are often on display to the street below. Diez + Muller Architects circumvented this by creating a green barrier around the eastern side of the ground floor. Here the structure consists of gathering spaces, such as the living room, kitchen and dining space. The cuboidal nature of the plan is broken up by two open-to-sky spaces. A larger hardscaped courtyard to the west is contrasted with a garden facing on the east. A second cut-out is located in between the staircase and the garage. Enveloped in glass on both ends, the green barrier also creates a more pleasing east-facing vista.
In addition to the main structure, there are two smaller fragments of the building. Attached to the garage is a service and utility unit with an additional room. The terrace of this structure serves as a platform that connects the first story of the main structure to the upper region of the site. A small office space is located at the south end of the courtyard. This particular room can only be accessed through the courtyard.
The first floor of the home consists of four bedrooms, each with its own bathrooms. Following the linear pattern of the ground floor living room, the four rooms are connected along a corridor that acts as a circulatory spine. A small reading nook is located in the middle of this linear plan and acts as a programmatic break. The corridor opens up into a terrace which creates a visual and physical connection between the bedrooms and the upper section of the site landscape. The section of the house is also the part that is visible from outside the site. The volume is arranged horizontally and realised in brick, as is most of the exterior finish of the structure.
The roof of the structure exhibits an interesting rhythm with the west-facing corridor having a consistent slope. The four bedrooms, however, oscillate between west sloping and east sloping pitched roofs. This results in a dynamic roofscape that has an asymmetrical gable roof over two of the bedrooms and a lean-to roof over the other two. This roof arrangement creates a variation within the bedrooms. It also allows for the possibility of northeast light to enter the corridor via vertical skylights that bridge the distance between the ridge of the corridor roof and the abutment of the west sloping roofs. The volumes are sculpted to relate to the surrounding mountain range and are meant to look like a geometric abstraction. The corridor's roof extends along the same angle over the staircase with the addition of the skylight.
One of the strongest and most visually appealing elements of the project is perhaps its brick exterior wall. The western façade received the intense afternoon sunlight. The hardscaped courtyard and corridor along the western façade acts as filters to the habitable spaces of the house. The western façade also features perforations in the brick wall that act as a lattice. Envisioned as a way of achieving a reference of time and space, the light filtering into the house constantly changes based on the season and time of day.
Moving between complete walls and porous lattice, the brick exterior creates a pattern of solids and voids much like the courtyards and cut-outs create a volumetric variation in mass and voids. The contrast of opacity and porosity is particularly visible on the eastern façade of the first floor. Here there is a rhythmic pattern on the walls between the beam and the lintel that are porous. These wall segments correlate to the lean-to roofs, which means they have an extending wall between the lintel and the roof ridge. As opposed to a flushed wall, the bricks project out, adding another dimension to the façade.
Name: Cangahua House
Location: Pacho Salas, Tumbaco, Ecuador
Architecture: Diez + Muller Architects
Design team: Felipe Muller, Gonzalo Diez, Paola Picciallo, Alvaro Borrero, Hugo Navarrete.
Construction: Architect Pedro J. Falconí
Suppliers: Thermia Barcelona (Er Servicios), Inmadec, CI, Holcim, Highlights.