A Tiny Home Outside Bogotá Draws on Nostalgia and Awe

A Tiny Home Outside Bogotá Draws on Nostalgia and Awe

By Laura Mauk
Architect Alfonso Arango’s design for a 258-square-foot getaway in La Calera, Colombia, ties together his love of the land and his memories of family.

When architect Alfonso Arango thought to design an ancillary dwelling in La Calera, Colombia, on the property where his childhood home is situated, he wanted to create a kind of escape. "It’s a retreat where I’m able to think about current designs or make models of my projects," the architect says. "I wanted a place to get away from the urban madness and clear my head; a place to stay in touch with my past, my memories, and long-gone loved ones."

Architect Alfonso Arango designed a 258-square-foot retreat with a green roof on the property of his childhood home in La Calera, Colombia.

Inspired by the home’s locale—often blanketed in moody early-morning fog—Arango calls his 258-square-foot design "House on the Mist." 

The home is 2,909 meters above sea level and during certain atmospheric conditions, the landscape is shrouded in a thick haze. "There are moments when the mist starts to fall, almost touching the ground and everything that’s earthbound looks like it’s hovering," Arango says. In naming the micro home, Arango also thought about the concept of nostalgia. "I grew up in the main house with my mother’s side of the family," he says. "We needed to move due to logistics concerning my grandmother’s health and that was really difficult for me. My childhood memories were key in conceiving this little house. However, sometimes memories are elusive, moving like silhouettes through the mist. You’re able to identify or remember some aspects of an event, but not the whole thing."

The compact residence, sided with tarred pine and glass, is surrounded by the Andes mountains.

Arango’s design, which effectively presents as a black cube, is starkly clad with tarred strips of pine that contrast with teak window frames and a teak front door. "The ancient practice of tarring wood is quite beautiful and protects against water, sun, and insects," Arango says. Inspired by the mist, the architect employed a glass-block wall on the northeast facade that lends more contrasting texture as well as an ethereal quality to the home’s aesthetic. "Due to slight deformations, the glass reflects rays of sunlight and creates movement and a shimmering effect," Arango says. 

The tiny home's box-like form was inspired by history and the idea of simplicity. "The basic, pure quality of the square was the perfect form for me to be able materialize the ideas that had been floating around in my mind," Arango says. "The square has been a part of architecture since ancient times."

"The front door and all of the windows are made from teak that's treated with natural oils to preserve the beauty and integrity of the wood," Arango says. "The material gives a touch of warmth and contrasts with the black tarred pine that wraps around the exterior of the house."

"At sunset, natural light enters the house in a stronger way," Arango says. "It's red-tinted light that waves goodbye to the sun and welcomes the night."

In combination with morning sunlight, the glass-block wall also helps to heat the home’s interior, which includes a ground-level living room, kitchen, bath, and a mezzanine-level bedroom and office. "The house is based on a square plan which is rotated 45 degrees from the north in order to gather as much sun as possible throughout the day and the year," Arango says. "And in the center of that square is a rainwater conduit that connects a green roof to the ground." 

"The interior walls are covered in pine boards that offer a sense of coziness, warmth and a delicate feeling of home," Arango says.

The glass-block siding offsets the pine and floods the living areas with plenty of natural light.

Arango outfitted the kitchen with stainless steel cabinetry and counters that reflect sunlight and lend cool texture that contrasts with the pine siding and the teak window frames.

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Arango’s inclusion of a green roof was a key part of the design from its inception. "The surrounding landscape is important," the architect says. "I didn’t want to remove a piece of permeable soil. As compensation for the area used to build the house, a green roof was in my mind the moment I began thinking about the project." Preliminary versions of the design included a green roof, and as plans evolved, the natural feature became a way for Arango to remember his grandmother. "I thought of my grandmother and her love of plants," Arango says. "The idea of an elevated garden that’s closer to the skies was really powerful." The architect developed the green roof with Maria Camila Moreno, a close friend. "She understood its importance," Arango says. "The idea of a green roof—something that’s always changing, growing but also fading or dying—it’s always reminding me that decay is a natural part of life." 

The home's green roof is an ode to the life of Arango's grandmother.

At night, the teak window frames emanate a warm glow, appearing like lanterns that punctuate the home's exterior. 

Related Reading: Here’s Why You Should Be Paying Close Attention to Colombia’s Design Scene

Project Credits:

Architect: Alfonso Arango

Builder/General Contractor: David Penaloza

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