Cinco Sólidos forges sensorial relationships in raw concrete and wood with Casa JL

On a hillside overlooking the city of Medellín, Colombia, this residence channels tropical modernism with restrained materiality, terminating in an infinity pool with pristine views.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jan 03, 2023

Aside from Brazil, Mexico, and Chile, the most visible sources of exemplary architecture in South America are in Colombia, which is steadily emerging as a rival to this trio, with a diverse assortment of styles and ideologies shaping its present-day built environment. These developments span adaptive reuse ventures in cultural architecture such as the Fábrica de Cultura: School of Arts and Popular Traditions, to environmental conservation projects featuring sculptural greenhouses as in the case of El Tropicario in the national capital Bogota, and finally, smaller residential designs like Casa Milguaduas which merge traditional and contemporary architectural motifs. When considering the incredible biodiversity ingrained within the country’s natural landscape and ecosystems, especially with its distinctive variations of tropical climatic zones, the blossoming of new interpretations of tropical modernism in the country is a phenomenon that was certain in every respect.

  • The residence is located on a hillside overlooking the city of Medellín | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The residence is located on a hillside overlooking the city of Medellín Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • The design was developed to engage in dialogue with its context | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The design was developed to engage in dialogue with its context Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

The fringes of the city of Medellín provided an ideal location for local practice Cinco Sólidos, to develop a consummate exercise in residential architecture, using the colours of the earth to initiate a conversation between structure and context. Nestled in the slope of a mountain overlooking the totality of Medellín’s urban landscape beneath it, the home is made up of two V-shaped wings that interlock with one another along the sloped topography of the site. The front façade design features an upper level dressed in innumerable wooden louvres that can either spread out to form a screen or retract to evoke brise-soleil. Alternatively, the residence’s lower floor has been left almost entirely open to the elements, flowing into a colonnaded deck that terminates in an infinity pool.

  • Wood and concrete materiality define the external envelope | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    Wood and concrete materiality define the external envelope Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • The solidity of the upper level is contrasted by the openness of the spaces below it | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The solidity of the upper level is contrasted by the openness of the spaces below it Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

In the words of the architects, "A connection between architecture and its context was the foundation on which the home was built." In developing and detailing the design further, a few essential queries served to guide the course of their process which eventually yielded the house’s final incarnation. “Is it beautiful? Does it serve a purpose and influence the way people interact with space? Does it establish sensorial relationships? These are all questions that were consistently asked and looked for,” notes the design team.

  • View of the pool deck at night | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    View of the pool deck at night Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • The wooden screen on the upper floor can fold to create sunshades during the day | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The wooden screen on the upper floor can fold to create sunshades during the day Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

Since both wings ascend to two storeys, the lower volume contains the garage, utility space, and storage areas on one side. By means of a closed corridor running through the layout, these zones open up to the kitchen, dining and living areas, and the TV room, which have been arranged as an almost continuous sequence of spaces in an open plan setting, adhering to the flow of the deck and pool outside. Framed by cylindrical concrete columns that drop down towards the deck, these spaces can bask in views of Medellín while bathed in an abundance of sunlight, screened by overhangs from the floor above. There is a sense of artistry in the minimalistic character of this area, with only the textures of matte exposed concrete and natural wood grain constituting its extremely modest palette, almost puritanical in its restraint.

Standing on the pool’s edge is a scintillating experience, featuring unhindered vistas of the cityscape below | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
Standing on the pool’s edge is a scintillating experience, featuring unhindered vistas of the cityscape below Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

However, it is this very facet of the interior design that is responsible for the evocative atmosphere within the home, channelling the unadorned materiality of the earth as a counterpoint to its verdant surroundings. In effect, the use of this naturalistic combination of materials provides a superb backdrop for the home’s various landscape design elements—mainly made up of skylit courts sliced from the massing, with ocular openings that cast a spotlight on the vegetation they host. Bespoke designed tables with rough edges, alongside elegant wooden furniture, upholstered sofas, and a terrazzo kitchen counter form a coherent ensemble that deviates little from the design’s primary aesthetic themes.

  • The ground floor spaces are sparsely populated with furniture, arranged with purpose and intent | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The ground floor spaces are sparsely populated with furniture, arranged with purpose and intent Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • The spiral staircase in the living area | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The spiral staircase in the living area Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • The sculptural qualities of the staircase possess an almost monolithic materiality | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The sculptural qualities of the staircase possess an almost monolithic materiality Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

Furniture designs have been placed throughout the space with meaning, creating a direct relationship between users and their environment. A sense of raw materiality in the space and objects that compose it, contrasts the tonal interiors with warmth and texture. This makes every room feel like a curated object collection that is not only purposeful but meaningful. Nothing should seem out of place; nothing should feel superfluous,” relays Cinco Sólidos. The designers add, “Asymmetry is intentional and repetitive throughout the entire home. Elements such as overlapped rugs would disrupt the otherwise stiff compositions and architecture.”

  • The spiral staircase features paper thin treads | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The spiral staircase features paper thin treads Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • An ocular skylight crowns the rise of the staircase | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    An ocular skylight crowns the rise of the staircase Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • The living area opens up to views of the surroundings | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The living area opens up to views of the surroundings Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

On one side of the living area is a swirling spiral staircase, complete with paper thin treads that make the entire structure appear to have been hewn from a single block of stone. A glazed oculus caps the top of its rise, flooding this zone with natural light. Glass partitions of varying size and transparency add a further layer to the play of light across the concrete and wood architecture, creating visual links between certain spaces while separating others from the fold.

  • View of the kitchen and dining area | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    View of the kitchen and dining area Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • Pockets of landscape interject the play of wood and concrete | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    Pockets of landscape interject the play of wood and concrete Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

Externally, the terrace and pool design provide a supplementary living space beyond the envelope of the residence, removing any visual hindrances to the vistas available from this point along the mountainside site. “Sitting beside a dining and barbecue area, the dark pool becomes a natural mirror that changes throughout the day, creating reflections that contrast linear architectural structures with organic aerial views,” state the architects. Standing on the brink of the pool’s tapering edge, the boundaries between sky, earth, and water meld into one.

  • The terrace and pool area | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    The terrace and pool area Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • Glass partitions of varying transparency add layers to the play of light on the home’s earth-toned surfaces | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    Glass partitions of varying transparency add layers to the play of light on the home’s earth-toned surfaces Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

Contemplative in ambience, the space in each of the three bedrooms on the upper storey has been reduced to its most fundamental state, curated to enhance the vistas available from within their enclosures. Facing three distinct patches of scenery, the trio of living quarters adopt the same sense of austerity as seen in the rest of the home, maintaining the overall clarity and coherency in the home’s conceptualisation as a complement to its context rather than a blight upon the surrounding terrain. The designers share, “We set out to create spaces designed to disrupt the senses, influence emotions, and create connections with its context. Stripped down of unnecessary elements that can contaminate its energy, Casa JL does this with a verve and panache that is riddled with intimacy and purpose.”

  • Glazing also creates visual links between segregated spaces | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    Glazing also creates visual links between segregated spaces Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • Each bedroom has been designed to complement the scenery it faces | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    Each bedroom has been designed to complement the scenery it faces Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave
  • These living quarters have been stripped bare of all ornament, curated solely to enhance views of the context | Casa JL | Cinco Sólidos | STIRworld
    These living quarters have been stripped bare of all ornament, curated solely to enhance views of the context Image: Nick Wiesner and Anna Dave

Project Details

Name: Casa JL 
Location: Medellín, Colombia
Gross Built Area: 900 sqm
Year of Completion: 2021
Client: Jose Latorre
Architect: Cinco Sólidos
Interior Design: Cinco Sólidos
Builder: SAM

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