Native Trees Punch Through the Roof of This Concrete Home in Argentina
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Native Trees Punch Through the Roof of This Concrete Home in Argentina

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By Mandi Keighran
Built of concrete and timber, Casa BS in Córdoba maneuvers around nature, allowing trees to puncture its design.

When an Argentinian couple’s adult sons moved out of the family home, the empty nesters decided to build a new home to mark the next chapter of their lives. "They wanted a house connected with nature and the outside," says Joaquin Alarcia, director of Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos. "The design changed a lot from the first iteration to the final proposal, but through all the variables, this connection with nature was a constant in the thought process."

The large social space at the center of the home opens out to views of the surrounding trees and the pool.

The home—called Casa BS—is located in Córdoba, a city in central Argentina in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas on a large, 2,500-square-meter site. "The site has some interesting peculiarities," says Alarcia. "The plot is irregularly shaped with a number of mature native trees. In addition, the orientation is to the north—a good orientation in Argentina."

The home is divided into four different blocks, arranged to avoid impacting on the trees on site.

The home is located at the rear of the site, allowing it to open up toward the leafy forest and the northern orientation. The main objective was to preserve the native trees on the site, and it was this motivation that drove the unusual footprint of the home.

The slender timber columns supporting the "gallery"—an outdoor living space—are a subtle nod to the surrounding forest.

"The distribution of the different components of the house was organized to preserve the trees," says Alarcia. "Each block moves back and forth to preserve a specific tree. Some trees even run through the house, particularly in the gallery."

The home has been built around the trees—and in some cases the trees run directly through the building.

Arrival at Casa BS is through the forest, which initially conceals the home from view and allows it to be discovered gradually. The large home is broken into four "blocks," each with a different functionality and various points of access. "It is a house where you discover the spaces as you walk through it," says Alarcia.

An outdoor pool is situated among the trees, allowing swimmers to be completely immersed in nature. Like the home, its footprint was determined by the existing trees on the site, and its otherwise geometric form is playfully interrupted by a diversion around a tree trunk.

The social spaces are contained in two central blocks, flanked by private blocks at each side. The entrance is located in the smaller central block, which also contains a semi-private sitting room. This block has been designed to create a more intimate atmosphere than other areas in the home and is set back at the rear of the sloped roof.

The entire home opens up toward the north, and the entrance block is set back from the rest of the house.

A semi-private sitting room in the entrance block offers a cozier space to relax in compared to the expansive main living room.

Directly to the left of the entrance block is the "social" block, a soaring double-height space which contains the living room, dining room, and kitchen. An open gallery—or outdoor living space—runs in front of this block, and the interior and exterior spaces are connected through a wall of large glazed operable panels. Openings in the timber roof structure of the gallery allow space for existing trees to continue to grow, connecting the home with the site.

The open-plan living and dining room look out to the forest and pool through operative glass panels. The kitchen is partially concealed behind cabinetry at the far end of this space.

The regularly spaced structural columns impose order on the irregular footprint and, along with the trees on site, helped to define the floor plan.

To the right of the entrance block is a private block, housing two bedrooms for the adult sons—who often visit their parents—on the ground level and the master bedroom upstairs. Like the living space, the bedrooms are all flooded with natural light through large glazed sections that look out to the forest.

Functional spaces—such as bathrooms—are contained in smaller blocks within the main spaces of the home.

While the husband works in a nearby hospital, the wife works from home as a psychologist and needed a space in which to receive her patients. This home office is housed in a block to the left of the social block, and is accessed from an external staircase. Beneath the office is a large barbecue room for informal dining.

Concrete stairs leading down to the barbecue area and up to the home office.

The materiality of the exterior allows the home to further integrate into the site with concrete walls and mezzanines, and timber ceilings and supports. "The concrete is very good for the passage of time," says Alarcia. "It does not need maintenance and natural elements, such as rain and wind, will create a beautiful texture on its surface over time."

The concrete pool structure has been conceived as a separate element to the home and is sunk into the sloped ground.

The use of these materials continues inside the home, with concrete floors and a timber roof structure and specific supporting elements that make a subtle reference to the forest. Rendered double-brick walls have been used to divide the interior space, providing a high level of thermal comfort.

Timber stairs lead from the entrance block up to the master bedroom.

Throughout the home, there is a continuity between the interior and exterior, with large operable glass panes that connect the living spaces in the social block to the covered outdoor "gallery" space, and large windows framing the trees on site. "Unlike many places in Córdoba, the site has no interesting views of the surrounding landscape," says Alarcia. "For this reason, we have focused on the internal view to the trees and the forest."

The concrete walls are perforated by large and small windows that frame views of the trees and local forest, as the site doesn't offer expansive views of the surrounding landscape.

"The most rewarding part of this project is the way the house is organized to preserve the trees, and the way that we were able to create a successful internal functioning in line with that footprint," says Alarcia. "As is often the case, there was a little bit of friction with the clients toward the end of the project due to the budget. As soon as they began to use the home, however, they were completely satisfied and happy with the result."

Lower level floor plan of Casa BS by Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos

Upper level floor plan of Casa BS by Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos.

Sectional drawings of Casa BS by Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos.

Related Reading: 19 Unconventional Homes Built Around Trees

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Alarcia Ferrer Arquitectos

Builder: Orange Obras Civiles

Structural Engineer: Ing. German Sarboraria 

Photographer: Federico Cairoli

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