Erica and Eduardo Heidenreich’s remote delta retreat can be reached only via a magical one-hour boat ride from Buenos Aires through the narrow, winding tributaries and canals of the Paraná River. As our vessel skips across the water and brilliant green flora envelops us on either side, the city’s high-rises become a hazy memory etched upon the horizon.
Erica is the owner and founder of the interior design studio Solsken, and Eduardo is a civil engineer and the vice president of Data IQ. Their two grown children live away from home, so the couple wanted a place where they could all spend weekends together as a family.
Erica had fond memories of the delta, so she and Eduardo jumped at the chance to buy six adjacent plots on the Paraná Miní tributary in 2018. They liked that the site was far from the mainland with little speedboat traffic, yet was still serviced by water buses and supply boats. (It also had electricity and good cell service.)
After visiting a Chilean friend’s Passive House, Erica and Eduardo were inspired to create a sustainable home without compromising on design or comfort. As they researched firms, they discovered Mapa, an architecture studio in Uruguay whose philosophy aligned with their approach—and they warmed to the architects’ laid-back buena onda (good vibes). They also worked with Horacio Battagliero, a born and bred isleño (islander) who had led the construction of many houses in the delta, and Argentine architect Joaquín Berdes, who worked closely with Mapa throughout the process.
Mapa had never built a Passive House before, but its designers drew up a bio-climatic scheme that complied with the building standard’s strict requirements. It includes state-of-the-art insulation and faces north, with a generous roof overhang, which blocks direct sunlight in the summer months while still allowing the lower winter sun to warm the interior.
"Every architectural decision was made to favor sustainability and the search for a construction that is aware of its environmental impact."
—Matías Carballal, architect
The project’s biggest hurdles involved transporting materials and building on such a remote site. "To work in a location that’s prone to flooding and only accessible by boat was a huge new challenge for us," says Mapa cofounder Matías Carballal, "but at the same time, it gave us the opportunity to rethink the way we practice in a more environmentally sensitive way."
By using prefabricated structural insulated panels, the designers were able to reduce the amount of complex work required at the site, and the home sits on a series of eight-foot-high wooden pilotis that secure its elevation and safeguard it from tides and floodwaters. "The terrain is muddy, which made laying the base a challenge. We’d seen other houses that had partially sunk due to their poor foundations," explains Eduardo. Most important, the structure is designed to withstand significant lateral pressure in case large branches or fallen trees are carried toward it by floods.
The rectangular, 2,260-square-foot house is divided into two wings, with three bedrooms on one side and the common areas—including an open-plan kitchen/living/dining room and a deck with a parrilla, a traditional Argentine grill—on the other. Erica’s design expertise and sensibility are reflected in the home’s decor. "I wanted solid, practical furniture—nothing delicate," she says.
The soft, neutral shades complement the calm that fills the space when all of the doors and windows are shut. "One of the things I love most about the house is the silence," says Eduardo. "Each time I come to the delta, I sleep one or two hours more than I do in my apartment in Palermo."
In the months to come, Erica and Eduardo plan to develop the terrain further. They’d like to create a lagoon with an island where their future grandchildren can play, carve out elevated footpaths that won’t flood, and enjoy and cultivate the landscape around the house as it matures over the coming years. It’s a lifelong project—and they’re in no rush to finish.
Architecture: MAPA Architects
Interior Design: Solsken
Executive Development and Construction Management: Joaquín Berdes
Construction: Battagliero Construcciones
Structural Engineering: Diego Vázquez, Rothoblaas Argentina
Landscape Design: Clara Billoch
Lighting Design: Eli Sirlin
Passivhaus Consulting: SUPERFICIE (Pedro Reyna, Lole Gawuryb, Gabriel Yurevich)
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