by Jerry ElengicalSep 21, 2022
A narrow 190 sqm plot in Asunción, Paraguay, flanked by rows of tiled roofs and tree canopies, sets the scene for a unique architectural exploration of the ‘in-between’, expressed in a residence assembled from uncooked earth, metal, and textured wood. Intermediate House, the name bestowed upon the home by its creators - local firm Equipo de Arquitectura - reflects this core theme, raising liminal space to the highest precedence within its residential design, by employing adaptive partitions and transitions that permit users to reorganise spatial configurations as and when necessary.
Designed for a close friend of the firm’s lead architects, the home’s most identifiable feature at the outset is its protruding roof canopy, characterised by rhythmic jack-arched vaults, beneath a permeable brick screen which defines the façade design. Perforations in the rippling brickwork allow a glimpse of the interior beyond. To one side, the slim front door swings away to reveal the structure’s contents - open, dynamic, constantly morphing in accordance with the need of the hour.
A mango tree at the centre of the plot forms the design’s point of origin, moulding the fluid layout devised around it. Speaking to STIR, the architects explain, “The idea was to create a big flexible space that can change according to the different activities of the users. This way, the whole terrain can integrate at once, or be divided into two or three different spaces, some more private than others."
To this end, Intermediate House’s public and private spaces have been accommodated within two blocks on either end of the linear site, separated by the semi-outdoor courtyard at the core of the spatial layout. An open dining area in the former zone at the entrance leads towards the central garden, followed by the living space and bedroom at the opposing end of the plot. Movable shutters and panels augment this configuration, allowing for the regulation of transparency between the two zones. “The functional flexibility of the house has been adjusted to interchangeable conditions of living, where the user of the house becomes the architect of these transformations,” notes Equipo de Arquitectura in a press statement. Within its subtropical context, these features allow inhabitants to conciliate their interactions with light and air - effectively moulding the home’s microclimate while imbuing a sense of intimacy into the tightly-knit collection of spaces.
Above this arrangement, the jack-arched roofing supported by black I-sections, spans nearly the entire length of the plot over two stretches, broken only by the mango tree at the heart of the plan. An amalgamation of industrial production and indigenous workmanship, the structure makes use of compacted earth blocks that have been sliced through the middle to create channels for reinforcement. A generous load of concrete applied between layers of blocks compacts and strengthens the entire assembly. Furthermore, the loads from the roof are supported entirely by built-in furniture placed along the periphery of the site, melding functional and structural support into one. The architects relay, “We intended to eliminate all of the inner walls and place all of the serving spaces on the borders. In that way, a sense of spatial continuity was achieved. Integrating exterior with interior also helped us to broaden the perception of the space."
Regarding the project’s synthesis of traditional architecture and industrial references through the lens of sustainable design, the architects comment, “We wanted to use the same material for the walls and the roof. The compressed earth blocks used in the project are made out of raw earth and 10 per cent cement, to reduce the ecological impact of construction material. By means of this, we achieved a very thin structure, reducing the overall cost of the construction."
Exposed brickwork characterises the majority of the bounding surfaces in the courtyard, interjected by flashes of green from pockets of landscaping. Since most of the wall spaces indoors are occupied by adjustable furniture and shutters, the wood grain finishes applied on these panels lend an almost monochromatic aesthetic to the interior design, allowing the play between light and texture to capture the eye. Warm and elegant wooden furnishings serve as an extension of this notion, creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere.
A statement that bridges the traditional and contemporary, Intermediate House typifies an emerging paradigm within the realm of architecture, wherein malleable partitioning grants users greater authority over the arrangement of the spaces they inhabit. The architects conclude in an official release, “Architecture is a profession that mediates the needs of living with the transformation of matter. Architects become intermediaries in that will to power. To stand on the shoulders of giants is to place oneself in the middle of the advances of the past and the development of the future - an inevitable task if we assume that architecture is the history of continuity."
Name: Intermediate House
Location: Asunción, Paraguay
Area: 115 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: Equipo de Arquitectura
Project team: Horacio Cherniavsky, Viviana Pozzoli, Gabriela Ocampos, Franco Pinazzo, Rolph Vuyk
Landscape design: Lucila Garay