Brutalism is ‘drowned in nature’ in this modernist home in Kaunas, Lithuania
by Jerry ElengicalJun 27, 2022
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by Sneha ShahPublished on : May 11, 2023
Architectural gestures continue to evolve as architects and designers harness historical references for their contemporary practices with minimalist interventions. In the pursuit to preserve the existing narrative and embrace natural context, subtle structural flairs and aesthetics are employed. This can be seen in Karlen + Clemente Studio's expansion of a home that has existed since 1918. Designed as a private residence keeping modernist sensibilities in mind, the home is located on wild land in front of the Tercer Usina Lake, in Córdoba, Argentina, with an architecture that lets it recede into calm introversion.
Following the studio’s characteristic design language, the architectural narrative is defined by the purity of its facade design. Created in exposed concrete and expansive glazed facades, the exterior skin is designed in conjunction with the airy interiors, that seem monastic and luxurious at the same time. The fundamental approach of this project is to uphold a rationalist impression, with attention to minimalist ideas with local influences and a classic modern aesthetic. Despite the challenges of a limited scope of refurbishment, the built form responds to an understanding of contemporary architecture with a touch of raw finishing. This juxtaposes the old and the new in terms of techniques and materials.
The seemingly simple dwelling is conceived in two parts: the new block houses social functions with uninterrupted views of the lake through its transparent frontage, while the original building houses the bedrooms and service areas. The residential design promotes flexibility and accessibility of social environments with outdoor space, guaranteeing full use through the summer season. This seeks to sustain the existing home to its maximum potential, making the three main objectives for expansion–incorporating social areas that embrace the original block without influencing its structure, providing utmost versatility and vistas to the new architectural addition, and an improvised element that is essential for providing a novel outcome to the original home.
The spatial layout follows a new entrance, made up of an 'exterior hall'—hierarchical by means of transparent eaves that are aligned to a compact volume of thick walls and small openings that make up the existing house. Like a sanctuary, this has a visibly perceptible zone of three bedrooms, balanced by the tactility and textural qualities of organic materials that adorn it. The service area encompasses a kitchen which joins the living-dining room through the old entrance door on a wall that facilitates freedom of function. The living-dining room expands to the outside through the stretch of a gallery space and is complemented by a dynamic metal pergola, fostering a dialogue with the exterior landscape.
This residential architecture gains distinction with its dynamic clear forms and transparent panes, for the social and open areas, in contrast to the existing heavy monolith. It reveals a promise in terms of merging forward-looking and traditional aesthetics, materiality, construction methods and spatial typologies. As a result, there is a gradual transition, facilitated from opacity to transparency in terms of visual appeal. The house appears heavy on the front facade and dematerialised on its rear face to harmonise with the natural environment.
The highlight of the outdoor social space is the horizontal concrete slab, which conveys both a sense of raw, brutalist design and yet has a softer, more inviting feel. Holistically, the materials were chosen for their permeability and low maintenance; opting for exposed concrete framed in boards, glass carpentry in black aluminium and thin metal columns to reduce the building's visual weight. The house bears no reluctance in the face of its surroundings, as it embraces the atmosphere to meld with that of its contents. Restrained yet vividly cinematic, Reform 1918 is a humble abode to experience nature without any barriers; inside a space tinged with a flair of rustic charm.
Name: Reform 1918
Location: Third Plant, Cordoba, Argentina
Area: 254 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Architects: Karlen + Clemente
Design Team: Monica Karlen, Juan Pablo Clemente, Agustina Falistocco, Ricardo Morandini, Melisa Perotti, Fernanda Mercado
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