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."
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."
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.
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."
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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."
Architect: Alfonso Arango
Builder/General Contractor: David Penaloza
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