A Small Guatemalan Hut Gains a Thoughtful Glazed Expansion

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By Lucy Wang
Wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glazing, this light-filled retreat embraces the Guatemalan forest from all angles.

Built in 1965, a modest, gabled hut on the outskirts of Guatemala City has been transformed into an expansive 4,467-square-foot getaway by architect Alejandro Paz of local studio Paz Arquitectura, who walked a fine line between adhering to the original architectural style and injecting new elements that blur the line between indoors and out.

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Like the original construction, the additions have been mainly built of timber, steel, and glass.

Like the original construction, the additions have been mainly built of timber, steel, and glass.

In response to the owner’s desire for a larger bedroom and greater space for entertaining, Alejandro designed two additions on either side of the compact hut. One houses an open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen, while the other contains the master suite with a sitting area. The original hut has been modified into the guest quarters.

A diagram of La Cabañita's original small hut raised on a cantilevered platform.

A diagram of La Cabañita's original small hut raised on a cantilevered platform.

La Cabañita Diagram.

La Cabañita Diagram.

"La Cabañita’s goal is to integrate the natural environment of a densely wooded terrain on the outskirts of Guatemala City, reimagining the idea of the proportion of spaces and focusing on erasing the borders between the interior and exterior in a unique way," explains Alejandro.

Extremely durable Caribbean ipe has been used for the exterior deck, interior floors, and siding.

Extremely durable Caribbean ipe has been used for the exterior deck, interior floors, and siding.

Taking cues from the structure’s triangular joist steel frame and steeply pitched roof, the architect has topped the new additions with butterfly roofs that match the angle of the original construction’s peaked roof, yet in reverse.

The pitched roofs are topped with CINDU metal cladding.

The pitched roofs are topped with CINDU metal cladding.

The cantilevered terrace has been built out into a larger deck unifying the three structures, which are slightly offset due to the sloped site.

An oversized timber pivot door opens up to corridor, blurring the lines between indoor and out. Inside, a bright-red spiral staircase leads to the bedroom loft.

An oversized timber pivot door opens up to corridor, blurring the lines between indoor and out. Inside, a bright-red spiral staircase leads to the bedroom loft.

All three units are linked on the opposite side of the home with a glazed corridor that is elevated off the ground and topped with a thin concrete slab—a material Alejandro says "emphasizes lightness and leaves the importance to the three modules."

Topped with a thin slab of board-formed concrete, the glazed corridor doubles as the entry foyer.

Topped with a thin slab of board-formed concrete, the glazed corridor doubles as the entry foyer.

A glimpse through the glazed corridor shows one of two interstitial spaces between the original cabin and the new additions. The ivy covering the cabin has been trimmed around the windows.

A glimpse through the glazed corridor shows one of two interstitial spaces between the original cabin and the new additions. The ivy covering the cabin has been trimmed around the windows.

"The roof on the new modules has the same angle as the original hut, but reversed, giving value to the original project, while the new modules acquire a new identity inspired by the pre-existing architectural object," Alejandro says.

"The roof on the new modules has the same angle as the original hut, but reversed, giving value to the original project, while the new modules acquire a new identity inspired by the pre-existing architectural object," Alejandro says.

"The retreat has an exterior platform larger than the interior in order to encourage the inhabitants to carry on outdoor activities," says Alejandro. "The exterior platforms are connected so it is possible to walk around in a cyclic and spontaneous pattern."

"The retreat has an exterior platform larger than the interior in order to encourage the inhabitants to carry on outdoor activities," says Alejandro. "The exterior platforms are connected so it is possible to walk around in a cyclic and spontaneous pattern."

Full-height glazing floods the interiors with natural light.

Full-height glazing floods the interiors with natural light.

The master bath features porcelanite walls and and floors paired with quartz counters.

The master bath features porcelanite walls and and floors paired with quartz counters.

Ample glazing allows for views straight through the structure.

Ample glazing allows for views straight through the structure.

La Cabañita front elevation.

La Cabañita front elevation.

La Cabañita Floor Plan.

La Cabañita Floor Plan.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record / General Contractor:  Paz Arquitectura / @paz_arquitectura

Structural Engineer / Civil Engineer: INEGSA

Lighting Design: Paz Arquitectura