by Jerry ElengicalFeb 03, 2023
Although the prevailing opinions on buildings rendered as simple concrete boxes may veer towards the negative, this outlook is not necessarily justified in every case. Where many might see a form that is not engaging or expressive, others might see modern architecture stripped of all pretence, devoid of inhibitions, saying as much as it can with as little as possible. This archetype thrives in its capacity to function as a nearly blank canvas for users and the context to engage with and project themselves onto. An additional characteristic of these structures is the sense of weight they exude, becoming more evident as the number of fenestrations and breaks in the exposed concrete diminish. Brutalist architecture harnessed this quality to great effect for quite some time, and revivals of this style have cropped up periodically since its initial foray into the limelight.
Brazilian architecture practice mf+arquitetos has turned many of these perceptions on its head with their latest project, Casa do Lago, a residence in Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, Brazil, that seems to hover over its lakeside site. Gently resting on a grassy knoll, which slopes down towards the neighbouring water body, the building’s form consists of a single hollow concrete block that extends for 36.5 metres, with a pair of stone-clad volumes projecting from its front. The centre of the home sits firmly on the ground, but the edges of the structure hang suspended in the air. As the firm explains in a release, "The subtle feeling of not touching the ground, transforms the brutality of this concrete block into an elegant lightness, its proportion is entirely linked to the proportion of the human scale. With a ceiling height of 2.60 metres, the residential architecture seems to frame the surrounding nature.”
While some would debate whether the residence's front façade design overlooks the lake, the structure's actual road-facing impression is built on two projecting volumes in random rubble masonry, framing a void in between that offers a view of both the living area and the landscape towards the lake. One of the stone-clad blocks houses the garage, laundry room, toilet, wine cellar, and the kitchen, as the other wraps around a private garden connected to the master suite, along with two other suites and office space. The former opens up to the road at its front, and the latter effectively functions as a compound wall. A pool of water between the two has been introduced in the style of a moat, where access to this segment of the building is only through a narrow wood-finished walkway extending across the water’s surface.
The firm notes, “When crossing the walkway, the glass doors open completely and the large living room integrates with the water mirror and also with the lake. The gap open to the front and back of the land brings nature inside in a very intense way.” Framing this link between the two contexts it bridges, the concrete block’s openness becomes more pronounced as one crosses the threshold to the interior, where the landscape, water body, and nearby plains can be experienced from a plethora of angles from the exceptionally open layout of the living area.
Purity is a running theme in the lines and ideas that have manifested the home’s built form. The interaction between surfaces of stone and concrete continues inwards from the façade, as the shift from exterior to interior is made seamless with few of any columns intruding upon the flow of space. The patinated, board-formed concrete architecture pairs beautifully with the light earthy tones of the brise-soleil, their delicate materiality ideally suited for their programmatic function. Swivelling both ways to either flood the home with light, or create a permeable screen which permits flecks of illumination to flitter inward, these shading devices add a movement to the composition in place of a traditional bounding wall of glass or concrete, and simultaneously allow the structure to breathe.
"Light invades the interior through the rope brises, which bring beauty and dynamism to the façade, helping to provide sun protection and also privacy, when necessary,” the Brazilian architects relay. They continue, “The living room has a smooth composition of materials: stone floor and walls, alongside a concrete ceiling and wooden panels. This clearer and more welcoming composition of natural materials contrasts with the composition of furniture textures, such as leather and linen.” A natural wood coffee table, amorphous in its shape, yet polished in the impression it leaves, provides a fitting centrepiece to the space. Breaking from the more modern aesthetic of the other furniture designs in this space, this feature livens up the space in a manner that few other elements could have, resembling the base of a tree that has taken root at the heart of the home.
Directly adjacent to this space, the flow of concrete and stone is broken by an expanse of wood panels that make up the work and storage areas for the open kitchen. Essentially rendered across a single wall, with flushed cabinets, and a dark stone-finished niche hosting the wash area and stove, the kitchen here is not a room of its own accord, but rather, another built-in feature of the interior design. This allows most of the floor space around it to remain open, as in the case of the living room, expanding a user’s perception of the space.
From this element to the brise-soleil, a wooden dining table with a live edge echoes the thematic structure of the living room, functioning as this space’s focal point. Cone-shaped pendant lights droop down from the ceiling, completing the picture. The stretch from the far end of the living area to this arm of the kitchen is framed only by two cylindrical concrete columns, as the only visible elements of the structural design. Moving into the more private sections of the house, the role of stone in the design is replaced by wood, lending a softer, more intimate touch to their overall feel, which also conserves the earthy nature of the overarching design language.
Archaic in its simplicity, primaeval in its expression, Casa do Lago bears no inhibitions in the face of its surroundings, embracing and welcoming their atmosphere to meld with that of its contents. Nature permeates every corner of the home—from the wide open living room which opens into the lakeside, to the private garden and use of landscape design in unexpected zones, including bathrooms. The notion of a dull, sealed concrete box is subverted through its honest and unadorned architectural expression, which culminates in a winding trail leading to a pool deck on the very brink of the lakeshore.
Name: Casa do Lago
Location: Uberlândia, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Site Area: 5600 sqm
Built Area: 557 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Lead Architects: Filipi Oliveira, Mariana Oliveira
Project Team: Luis Fernando, Luis Felipe, Lucas Ferrari, Talita Faciroli, Guilherme Takahashi,Renato Ubiali, Dionésio Júnior
Structural Design: Sergio Azara
Stonework: Pedras Mundia
Woodwork: Roberto Almeida
Furniture: Design Brasil
Decoration: Casa de cora
Wood Flooring: Triângulo pisos
- Brazilian Architect
- Brazilian Architecture
- Concrete Architecture
- Contemporary Architecture
- Exposed Concrete
- Facade Design
- Furniture Design
- Interior Design
- Landscape Architecture
- Landscape Design
- Organic Architecture
- Residential Architecture
- Residential Building
- Residential Design
- Staircase Design
- Tropical Modernism. Pool Design