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 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 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 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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."