by Jerry ElengicalFeb 24, 2023
Sítio Rio Acima is a tropical family home situated on the outskirts of the city of Junidiaí in São Paulo, Brazil. Undertaken by Brazilian architect Denis Joelsons as a renovation project, it seemed uniquely challenging as the expansive estate had been in the family for 40 years. The site had a number of old constructions—built in parts over the years—all of which had sentimental value for the client, which made it a priority to preserve them. A few extensions, built anew to address modern needs of the client, exude an understated elegance, inspired from the vernacular architecture of the surrounding rural countryside.
One enters from the site’s lowest point through an access road which threads through the entire site, rising slightly upwards as one moves. The site has abundant natural vegetation including mature trees of different kinds spread across the landscape. The residential design is quite organic and follows the contours of the landscape, seamlessly merging with it. The meandering path divides the site into two parts, lower one on the left and higher on the right.
A small lake greets the visitors upon entering the site and provides a secluded refuge within nature. Just across the lake rests the caretaker’s house, perched at an elevation behind a stone retaining wall. This wall is an element that both carves out a designated garage space and supports the house’s landing platform.
This part of the house displays the Brazilian Caipira architecture which pays homage to the cultural heritage of rural communities, reflecting the countryside vernacular architecture of the area. An overall symmetry, simplicity, and functionality along with the use of locally available materials characterise its design. The new buildings of the house use solid brick masonry and adds another layer to the material palette, which not only complements the existing finishes but also distinguishes the annexed part. This choice of materiality is inspired by the abundant brick kilns of the surrounding area.
The renovation included repurposing the existing wooden cottage, which contained three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The decision was made to convert the old master bedroom's bathroom into a fourth bedroom to optimise the available space. Furthermore, two new bathrooms were ingeniously added in an annex at the rear of the main house, ensuring a harmonious flow between the indoor and outdoor living areas. To enhance the aesthetics and connection to the surrounding environment, the traditional bedroom windows were replaced with French doors, accentuated by elegant shutters. This transformative touch extended the living space of the bedrooms to the veranda outside, offering a seamless transition.
Conscious of the need for accommodating more guests and adapting to the current demands of the household, the living area underwent a careful redesign. A more functional layout emerged by rearranging the kitchen and dining room within the existing social areas of the cottage. To further elevate the living experience, a cubic volume with a vaulted ceiling was introduced. This new space served as an expansive and inviting living room, perfectly complementing the overall aesthetic. An intriguing aspect of this design is the seamless alignment of the new living room volume with the existing roof ridge, harmonising with the established eaves and extending into the protective embrace of the concrete structures that encase the wooden frames.
Central to the architectural narrative of this house is the exceptional profile of its roof. The juxtaposition of the original orthogonal cottage structure with the contemporary ceramic vault of the living room volume creates a visually striking composition. Delightful streams of sunlight filter through the vaulted windows, casting delightful patterns across the living and dining areas. The interior materials and colours are carefully chosen to complement the surrounding environment. Natural materials like wood, bricks, and stone are used to create a warm and earthy atmosphere. To further enhance the connection to the outside, the building incorporates various indoor-outdoor transitional spaces. A spacious deck extends from the living area, with a carefully positioned hot tub nestled between two India palm trees, offering a serene oasis where one can relish breathtaking views of the lake and the adjacent pool.
The architect stitched together the 34,425 sqm (8.5 acre) site with a series of interventions that make vernacular seem contemporary. The remodelled main house seamlessly blends vernacular with modern functionality. From reimagined spaces to expanded living areas, every aspect of this dwelling showcases thoughtful design and attention to detail. The design intervention creates a sense of unity through its materiality, while preserving the nostalgic values of old buildings. Seamlessly blending the old with the new, it captivates both residents and guests with its harmonious spatial arrangement, abundant natural light, and the idyllic connection to its surroundings.
Name: Sítio Rio Acima
Location: Jundiaí, São Paulo, Brasil
Project duration: 2019-2022
Land area: 34425 m2
Built area: 329 m2
Architect: Denis Joelsons
Collaborators: João Marujo and Paula Reis
Landscape design: Alexandre Freitas and Leandro Fonseca
Structural design: Alfredo Haydamus
Installations: Renan de Sousa
Builders: Nix Construção, Engineers Francisco Antônio and Hércules Castagna