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 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."
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."
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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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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."