by Jerry ElengicalDec 30, 2022
Prevailing typologies and shapes of architecture have evolved in the public eye, from primal, hand-built mud structures to the soaring concrete jungles of today. It has been intriguing to study, the forms of fusions it has birthed and branched out into, as in, the creative development in terms of merging vernacular architectural details within a modern edifice or space. Whether they require more effort or less in conceptualising and realisation, remains subjective, and up to the fancy of those these forms are designed for.
For those of us on the sidelines, or even in the industry of building, it is a fascinating process to watch, since it is at once predictable and unpredictable. A lot of promise has been revealed in terms of merging modern and traditional aesthetics, materiality, construction methods, and spatial typologies, as seen in Our Lady of Victoria Monastery in Uganda, Mix Architecture's Shanshui Firewood Garden, and the Gadi House by PMA Madhushala in India.
The typologies of family homes in particular enjoy a lot more leeway, to experiment and draw from their surroundings, the site’s history and its prevailing cultural and architectural facets. Casa Milguaduas in Pereira, Colombia, captures the soul of the native guadua forest it is abundantly surrounded by, striving to belong wholeheartedly to its site, and harmonise with ease in a descending terrain.
Designed by Colombia-based studio Ritmo Arquitectos, the residential architecture goes beyond "being immersed in nature—It builds up expectation by presenting an introverted first impression with its pristine white walls, a guadua screen that reveals glimpses inward, as well as an optical illusion that conceals the entrance," shares the project’s lead architect, Juan José Álvarez Sanz.
Ritmo Arquitectos abstracted representative traits of the Colombian Coffee Grower Cultural Landscape (PCCC) rural houses of the area for the Milguaduas House, in an attempt "to reinterpret conventional archetypes in a contemporary context, thus seeking timelessness."
Casa Milguaduas finds distinction and clear definition in its extensive, multifarious use of guadua—a tropical species of giant timber bamboo native to South America, and is considered the strongest bamboo in the world, and also the third largest. Three cascading pitched roofs rest upon each other on ensuing edges, crowning two plaster white volumes of the residential design underneath.
The Colombian architects integrate the principle of assigning specific areas for different activities, famously formulated by Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer. The bamboo architecture is thus, divided into two cores—a leisure wing and a gathering wing. The formal structure housing the leisure areas is enclosed by a gable roof dressed in clay tiles, portioned into three units. In gentle contrast, the gathering area is sheltered by both, a continuous gable roof and a habitable rooftop inspired by the modernist movement.
In this way, the leisure and gathering spaces remain in interaction, although irregularly, through a distinct guadua screen. This curtain-like segmentation shapes the façade design, while folding inwards to sew in the vertical guadua into the home. This creates an august entryway descending into the social area, injecting a subtle grandeur to the spatial and architectural character, in tandem with reinforcing the blurred connection between both cores of the private residence.
The 520 sqm contextual design gives precedence to its expansive gathering area, and is designed to generate interaction across different levels, while maintaining hierarchy between rooms attached with individuality and pleasing proportion. A serene guadua tunnel frames the forest at its end, building a preamble of expectation by revealing subtle glances of what happens downstairs.
Almost theatrically, access to the home's living room goes from narrowness to openness, where attention is claimed immediately by the shadow like strips projected on the cement tiles, as if slowly birthed from the forest itself. On the same floor lies the heart of the house, the kitchen, and dining space, enjoying an absence of walls that allows a peripheral relation to its surrounding rooms.
Roofed and open-ended, the dining room becomes a spacious middle ground between the inside and outside of the house’s cladding. “Here, partially shielded by a guadua portico, the terrace is frequented by local exotic wildlife,” Sanz explains.
A broad plinth guards the white walls from reaching the floor, hollowed from the inside to double up as the shelf area for the home's office. The feature also creates seats in the outline of the contextual architecture, facing the forest in earnest. A 'traditional' corridor lies around this surrounding bench, encircled by a slender iron handrail. "This railing detaches the essence of the traditional macana (wooden weapons used by the various native cultures of Central and South America) spindles, standing almost transparently before the landscape. In turn, these features are sheltered by eaves at the ends of the gable roof, traditional in shape and material," Sanz elaborates.
The earthiness of Casa Milguaduas is furthered by its use of natural resources, fostering sustainability in materials as well as its layout, thus reducing its environmental and energy impact. The material language articulating the single-family home is written across a palette of five—locally sourced guadua bamboo, pristine white walls, poured concrete, welded black metal, and baked clay. Used in their purest essence, these materials convey a monochrome and texture-rich tone. "By establishing independence between roof and cladding, as well as in the gable roof and habitable roofing being dislocated, the interiors avail themselves of natural light and ventilation,” the architects relay.
This displacement is mimicked by the arrangement seen in the layered descent adhering to the terrain, where rooms articulating the warm, beige-infested interior design as well as outside areas, are laid out downwards, forming peaceful pockets for lingering and relaxing, with verdant nature for company. Ritmo Arquitectos also convey that the habitable roofing acts as a canal for rainwater harvesting, lying between the traditional clay gable roof which draws a frame enclosing the forest. "This plate, as well as the sculptural folded staircase that leads to it, give off a breath of modernity among traditional archetypes," they add.
The use of timber bamboo also extends in the form of clustered bamboo columns inside, as cladding, as beams, support and joinery, apart from the extensive screens that also adorn the homely dwelling.
The Milguaduas House reveals a sensitive, tender affair of locally sourced materials and the most basic archetype of living, a home with a pitched roof, drawing from sensibilities of Colombian vernacular architecture. The streamlined aesthetic, materiality, and spatiality of its wooden architecture reveals a cosy ambience, elegant simplicity, and artisanal craftsmanship, where the modern and rural unite with affluence. Ritmo Arquitectos leads with restraint, grace, and a laid-back charm, bridging local ingenuity to a contemporary sensibility, harmonising the home with its landscape, environment, and the rural context it arises from, giving off an almost nostalgic appeal with ease.
Name: Casa Milguaduas (Milguaduas House)
Location: Pereira, Colombia
Area: 520 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: ritmo arquitectos
Design team: Juan José Álvarez Sanz (architect in charge); Paula Díaz and Juan José Álvarez Sanz (project management architects); Juliana Muñoz (collaborating architect)