Imagine a vast lattice-like structure many stories high, at the heart of the city. Into this lattice is slotted a series of spheres, each large enough to contain a family home, neatly aligned along an ordered grid. The spare spaces around the spheres enable light and air to percolate through the superstructure, while also allowing for privacy and a sense of containment within each apartment in the collective.
This was the visionary dream of Brazilian architect Eduardo Longo, who imagined future cities with these spherical apartments, stacked one on top of another. Looking for a way to convey and develop his ideas, he decided to build a nearly full-scale prototype of one of these apartments on the roof of his own low slung home/office in São Paulo, beginning in 1974.
"I became interested in spherical buildings when I was searching for an ideal volume that could become an industrially produced, modular apartment," he says. "Weight was a very important issue, and no volume is lighter than a sphere."
Handling much of the work himself, Longo created a steel frame that was coated in layers of molded concrete. Casa Bola had a series of four levels and half-levels, gradually stepping upwards through the building. Bedrooms and storage areas were in the lower part of the sphere, the entrance, kitchen and dining spaces at the center, and the main living areas, featuring large windows looking out across the city, up at the top.
"The living room is my favorite space in the house, for its natural light and peaceful feeling," Longo adds. "I also like the fact that I hand-built the house, empirically, almost by myself, with no previous experience and no structural engineering calculations."
Inspired by the compact, rounded hulls of boat and yacht design, Longo treated the interior space as an integral part of the structure and form of the building, rather than as a distinct and separate realm. The living spaces are organic, sculpted and bespoke, with molded concrete used to create the sensuous curves of the beds, kitchen counters, steps, washbasins, bookshelves and desks that seem to grow from the walls.
Everything is tailored to the house by necessity, given that standard pieces of furniture would not fit in Casa Bola’s curved rooms. This creates a powerful sense of cohesion, with nearly all of the elements tied together by a crisp white paint finish. Only the earthy browns of the soft carpet in the living room offer a contrast, while self-designed banquettes are coated in white leather. There is a playful quality to the house, shown by the spiraling escape slide at the bottom of the sphere.
Longo moved into Casa Bola with his wife and two children, and completed another spherical house soon after. The idea of great tiers of spherical apartments has not yet been taken up by city developers, but Longo has not lost faith in his concept.
As a home, Casa Bola represents a highly individual approach, its sinuous character reminiscent of a number of other experimental, pioneering buildings of the 1970s and ‘80s, including Antti Lovag’s Palais Bulles (1975-89; see The Iconic House, 2009). The simple, sculpted purity of the interior appears as though carved from a block of stone, and the compact and integrated layout has helped to influence the design of many space-saving city-center apartments.
Excerpted from The Iconic Interior: 1900 to the Present, by Dominic Bradbury, with photographs by Richard Powers
Text © 2012 and 2020 Dominic Bradbury
Photographs © 2012 and 2020 Richard Powers
Reprinted by permission of Thames & Hudson Inc
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