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Feature article written by Daniel Conradie on the Ro House by Elías Rizo Arquitectos. Published in the October 2012 issue of Timber iQ, by publisher Trademax Publications. All photographs used in the article are by Marcos Garcia

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  • feature

    Layered living Words: Daniel ConradiePhotographs: Marcos Garcia

    Timber and slate harmonise in natural Mexico

    How does one distinguish good architecture from the already expansive oeuvre of built works? One of the ways in which the value of architectural contributions can be considered successful is when the original idea

    behind its formation is diligently preserved during the realisation of the building and apparent in the finished product.

    This is not an easy task. As the design process continues a number of influences begin to challenge the concept: structural design, budget adjustments, as well as changes invoked by an animated client. A powerful idea is able to address these concerns and provide solutions regarding its construction. At project completion it is this thread that ties the whole lot together. Most often this is where a design begins to falter, resulting in an illegible smorgasbord of mismatched magazine clippings.

    Situated in a forested area near the town of Tapalpa, Mexico, a weekend home sits perched lightly on a manicured landscape. The first realisation by the viewer is its simplicity; it is clear that a singular gesture had been fervently followed. An elegant agglomeration of regional materials - slate and wood - each one is clearly articulated and meticulously detailed to produce a crisp and contemporary built form inspired by its context.

    OCTOBER 2012 // 34

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    The architects investigated the organizational typologies employed in the neighbouring properties, but found the general response to be combative in their attempts to address a cooler climate. The most common response, reminiscent of an onion (whereby a sequence of layers are used to dress and group a collection of rooms), translates into built works that appear reclusive, and which are ultimately divorced from their respective contexts.

    The organizational methodology employed is therefore contextually relevant - not in a literal sense - but reinterpreted and restructured to produce an architectural work of exceptional clarity and depth.

    Studying the floor plan, a clear distinction between private and public realms are made: the private rooms are enclosed while the public corridor and living quarters have a much more direct connection to the surrounding landscape, and extend out onto a timber deck.

    The clients' request for a place of refuge, where isolation from chaos and noise of urban life takes precedence, gave the architects an ideal opportunity to explore an alternate approach to the definition of place. In response to this design objective an exercise in unwrapping was employed: spaces are peeled open and given the opportunity to embrace their surrounds.

    Formally the design manifests as a single linear gesture, oriented on a North-South axis along its longer elevation, with a single corridor that serves as the main connecting artery between the public/private and inside/outside realms.

    Unifying and covering the ensemble is an expressive single-pitched roof- a wholly timber construction perched on two steel delicate beams - with its slender rafter beams exposed. It lends a powerful atmosphere to the interior spaces and its presence felt throughout the house. Southern light spills across its surface and playfully entices the viewer's eyes to glide across it.

    In section, the roof provides an interesting juxtaposition to a built form otherwise occupied in the horizontal plane. The roof seems to follow this peeling notion as it attempts to explode and merge with the forest.

    The pitched roof lends a powerful atmosphere to the interior spaces and its presence felt throughout the house.

    // OCTOBER 2012 35

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    The material selection was deliberate: each one's colour and texture was employed to suit and entice a particular ambience to the space being enclosed. It also assists the viewer in identifying the organizational definition of the private and public realms. The private bedrooms are clad in slate - primordial, secure and warm - with selected openings punctured toward carefully curated views. The public realm on the other hand is wrapped with timber, lending to the space a much lighter and inviting quality. It also serves as a threshold and means of transition between the two.

    These glass infill panes prevent the stone and wood from ever wholly meeting, forever remaining in a state of tension.

    OCTOBER 2012 // 36

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    master pLan

    1. entranCe2. terraCe3. Living room4. kitChen5. restroom6. Laundry7. bedroom 18. bedroom 29. main bedroom

    n

    // OCTOBER 2012 37

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    Connecting these two seemingly contrasting materials (and concluding the definition between interior and exterior) large panes of glass are used. These glass infill panes prevent the stone and wood from ever wholly meeting, forever remaining in a state of tension. This building entices discussion, stimulates the senses and makes one aware of the balances and imbalances prevalent in nature.

    The composition, articulation and assembly of the materials show the architects' degree of technical prowess, and with a confident hand the characteristics of each are conducted and accentuated. It is this material confidence on the architect's part which provides the foundation for great architecture.

    projeCt detaiLs:

    arChiteCts: Elias Rizo Arquitectos LoCation: Tapalpa, Jalisco, MexicoarChiteCts: Elias Rizo Suarez, Alejandro Rizo SuarezCoLLaborators: Rigo Gonzalez, Gabriela ChavezprojeCt year: 2008

    The private bedrooms are clad in slate - primordial, secure and warm - with selected openings punctured toward carefully curated views. The public realm on the other hand is wrapped with timber, lending to the space a much lighter and inviting quality.

    OCTOBER 2012 // 38