Seeking a way to blend architecture into the natural environment, a pair of Ecuador-based designers invents a new modular building system. Read Full Article
“Your first impression is that the house is very closed,” says David Barragán of the building he designed with Jose María Sáez in Quito, Ecuador. Stacked concrete forms, developed by Barragán and Sáez and used as planters along the front facade, offer privacy and integrate the building with the site.
Once past the main threshold, the house opens up to the outside, literally and figuratively. Three courtyards built around existing trees flow seamlessly into a series of rooms with glazed walls and sliding glass doors.
Herman Pasternak, an engineer and consultant who designs water treatment systems, is a childhood friend of Pentimento’s owner, Desirée Marín, and now rents the house. He selected woven plastic chairs from Dream Works, a local company, for his reading room because they “go with the inside-outside concept of the house.”
“With this flowerpot form we saw an opportunity to do everything using only a single piece of concrete," says Sáez. "It’sa simple, direct form of architecture."
A cantilevered slab of Colorado wood, secured in the gap beneath a concrete block, serves as a dining table. Pasternak paired this with a vintage chair made of rare Caoba wood. To fill other gaps between blocks, the architects alternated strips of wood with strips of Plexiglas that let in light from the adjacent kitchen.
Six-year-old twins Nicolas and Constanza use Pentimento as their “little battleground,” says Pasternak. “They have some options here that they will not find anywhere else.” Among those options are a climbing wall offering easy access to the roof.
Pentimento’s true versatility is revealed with each new tenant who inhabits the structure. As Nicolas demonstrates, the polished concrete floors make for an ideal biking surface. When playtime is over, he hangs his bike on the wall by the front door, suspending it from the handlebars to keep the floor tidy.
“Nobody in Ecuador had constructed a house like this before,” says Barragán. But with the help of models and section drawings, the builders quickly got the hang of it. They even developed some creative new tools to do the specialized work—attaching part of a pen to an airbrush, for example, in order to extract dust from holes drilled in the foundation. They then anchored steel rods in the holes using epoxy glue and lowered the concrete blocks onto the rods, stacking each in one of the four possible configurations.