Cabin Vibes Get an Industrial Edge at This Brazilian Home

At Casa Granja V, a warehouse-inspired exterior gives way to folksy living spaces anchored by a library of 5,000 books.

Home to an empty nester couple, Casa Granja V sits on a slope in Cotia, a small city on the outskirts of São Paulo. Its corrugated metal and concrete blocks may bring to mind an industrial warehouse, but its contrasting interior is clad in warm timber and decorated with an eclectic collection of furniture, objects, and art.

The clients are a husband and wife with grown children who no longer live at home. The husband is a psychoanalyst, and the wife is a history teacher at a middle school in São Paulo. During construction of the home, very little earthwork was needed, as the residence nestles into the sloped site to preserve the flat part of the site for a garden of native trees and shrubs.

The site is a generous lot at an estate in Cotia, on the outskirts of São Paulo—an area that has plenty of greenery. Part of the concept for the home was to replace some of the existing exotic trees with native plants.

"The home can be read as a rather industrial-like warehouse from the outside, sitting as a threshold or a portal between the cliff at the front and the garden at the back," reveals architect Gaú Manzi, founder of 23 SUL. "But this look clashes with the warmth of the interior’s wooden finishes, its country-like furniture, and the couple’s private collection of high art and folksy craftsmanship, such as figures, statues, dolls, and paintings." 

An eclectic collection of artwork, objects, and furniture adds warmth to the interior and evokes a real sense of the couple’s personalities. The layering of these objects over the industrial architecture creates a texturally rich interior that can be read as a tapestry of the couple's life together.

The living space features glazed walls that look out over the garage and through the warehouse-style space toward the library. The couple’s collection of objets d’art are displayed on built-in shelves throughout the home, such as this one that wraps around a fireplace. 

The brief from the clients was to create a home that evoked the feeling of living in a timber lodge or cabin. "Cotia is a little bit colder than São Paulo," says Manzi. "So, the main goal was to design a home that could endure not only the hot days but could also be cozy during cold weather."

A small dining area is located behind the living area. A plaster wall separates the dining and living space from the kitchen. The decision was made to create dividing "panels" rather than full walls to maintain a sense of openness throughout the home and to allow for the layering of the couple’s collection of objects. 

As the home is intended for everyday use, it primarily functions over a single story. Driven by this approach and the site, the home comprises a single metal roof that shelters two volumes separated by the garage.

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The carport-style garage is situated at the center of the home with the living spaces arranged around it in two volumes. Concrete stairs lead from the lower level to the main living level on the upper floor. 

"The garage and the verandas play an important role in the relationship between external and interior spaces," says architect Gaú Manzi. "From the garage, one can see the landscape through the house itself and into the living room, kitchen ,and library, as the construction is rather transparent." 

Generous walkways and verandas around the open garage expand the living space outside and connect the two living volumes.

On the main living floor, a large office and library with a bathroom are located at one end, and the rest of the living spaces—including a living room, kitchen, a small study for the wife and the main bedroom suite—are at the other end of the home. These two volumes are connected via concrete walkways around the open garage. Sight lines between the two interior spaces have also maintained thanks to the use of plaster board "partitions" rather than full walls, maintaining a sense of visual connection.

The kitchen is located behind the dining space and features a concrete counter—a reference to the industrial-style architecture.

The kitchen bench extends to create a breakfast bar for casual dining.

The main suite—including a bedroom, closet, and bathroom—is located in a concrete block structure at the far side of the home, separating it from the rest of the living spaces. The concrete blocks help to define it as a more private, personal space.

Industrial black metal doors—such as the entrance to the main suite—offset the internal timber cladding, reenforcing the contrast between the architecture and the interior. 

The impressive library is one of the defining elements of the home—and needed to be able to accommodate around 5,000 books. "It was a challenge to do this without creating a ‘cave-like’ atmosphere," says Manzi. "The generous ceiling height here helped a lot." The bookshelves are crafted from black metal, and seemingly float on the walls, framed by the timber cladding.

The husband is a psychoanalyst who attends to patients in São Paulo as well as in the home—hence the generous proportions of the library and office. 

The library features a chaise lounge that allows the husband to see patients at home. There is also a private veranda, which is part of the roof slab over the guest bedroom.  

The library is also equipped with a full bathroom, tucked behind the partition wall to enable the husband to use the space late into the evening without disturbing his wife’s sleep. 

Beneath the library, on the lower ground floor, there is an additional guest bedroom and en suite for when the couple’s adult children visit. The roof of this suite forms the private balcony for the library above.

The couple’s children, who are in their thirties, often come to stay. The lower-floor bedroom beneath the library is used for their visits.

The main bathroom features warmly crafted timber joinery contrasted with terrazzo-style concrete floors and industrial concrete ceilings.

Verandas at both the front and back of the home create spaces to engage with the landscape and for "outside contemplation."

The home is primarily constructed with a metal frame clad internally in timber. "This was for cost and durability, and the timber is a reminder of the cabin aspirations," says Manzi. The concrete blocks function as both retaining walls on the sloped site and serve as a visual "reminder" of the home’s rigid modularity.

The home requires very little maintenance and features a lightweight construction. The modularity of the design also helped to avoid excessive material waste during construction. 

The metal roof and external walls are constructed from double-layered metallic roofing tiles, which were chosen for their durability against the elements.  

The living and dining areas open to a concrete deck overlooking the garden through minimalistic openings in the corrugated-sheet cladding. The expansive decks and verandas at both the front and rear of the home essentially double the living space.

This approach to materiality has also resulted in a home that is, says Manzi, "rather cheap by Brazilian standards." Most of the challenges regarding the budget had to do with organizing the site itself, such as the access ramp from the street, the site limit walls and fences, the garden, and the verandas. 

"The site itself has a generous slope, and the access from the street happens at the lower part," says Manzi. "This was the major challenge—to make the house accessible without disfiguring the site with a road." 

As the site is surrounded by greenery, it was important that the landscape become an integral part of the design. The land was originally planted with eucalyptus trees—a species that is exotic to Brazil—and these were removed in favor of native species.

A concrete block tower in the garden beside the home contains a water tank and solar heating boiler with a shower below. 

The tower features a ladder for access to the utilities, and the roof is planted with native shrubs to soften the concrete construction and reflect the approach taken with the landscaping. 

The carefully considered design, which took into account the idiosyncrasies of the site, budget constraints, as well as the lifestyle of the clients, has resulted in a home that is successful both pragmatically and aesthetically—and the home was awarded in the Single Family Dwelling category at the Institute of Architects of Brazil Awards 2019.

The modularity of the home’s construction is referenced in the grid-like windows. These large areas of glazing allow the home to be filled with natural light. 

At night, it is easy to see how the volume at the north end of the site is stacked with the library and a private deck above, and the en suite guest bedroom below. This is separated from the rest of the living space by the open garage, offering increased privacy. 

"As designers, we like how the simple, industrial materials have been combined to create a warm, elegant house, meeting the client's original desires in an unexpected way," says Manzi. "The clients love the house, and send us pictures of how the garden has grown. Recently they told us that they couldn't be in a better place to go through the quarantine period." 

Ground floor plan of Casa Granja V by 23 SUL

Lower ground floor plan of Casa Granja V by 23 SUL

Elevation of Casa Granja V by 23 SUL

Section of Casa Granja V by 23 SUL

Model of Casa Granja V by 23 SUL.

Model of Casa Granja V by 23 SUL

Related Reading:

Budget Breakdown: This Ethereal Glass House in the Brazilian Forest Was Built for $187K

This Secluded Micro Cabin Perches Lightly in the Brazilian Forest

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: 23 SUL / @_23sul

Builder: 23 SUL

Structural Engineer: Benedictis Engenharia

Landscape Design: Klara Kaiser

Sound Engineer: 23 SUL

Photographer: Pedro Kok


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