Jose Ignacio is a rocky and windy peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Uruguay, originally a remote fishing village and since two decades a summer resort enjoyed by mostly Argentine tourists and homeowners. Beach houses stretch along the coastline and also line the tight road grid centered around a plaza on the high point of the peninsula. The 300-odd houses are coherent only in their pretentious diversity.
Among them is “La Nave”, practically facing the Brava beach, an entirely wooden house on rough eucalyptus pilotis hovering over the natural landscape and flora of the sand dune.
The persistent metaphor during conception and construction documents was “the nave and the quay”.
The nave has materialized as a lineal space enclosing living areas, open kitchen, 2 bedroom cabins with shared toilet and an en suite master room. The interior space is defined by the eucalyptus structural columns, the eucalyptus laminated beams, natural hardwood (lapacho) on both sides of exterior walls and painted color white both pine inner subdivisions and ceiling. This combination of finely honed finished surfaces contrasts with the structural rustic pilotis: it is the contrast between the geometric forms of machined wood with the organic forms of natural growth, the contrast between refinement and rusticity.
The quay is an ample deck facing the sea and stretching partially alongside the 30 meter long nave. The building set in mid quay is a flexible indoor/outdoor eating and barbecue area with sliding glazed openings an all sides. Above is a studio or guestroom with ample beach views and above a roof deck with views overlooking the sea and the whole village behind. This two storey quay building divides the deck and protects a north patio from the prevailing south winds in winter and vice versa for the prevailing north winds in summer. Wind is the main pleasure constraint.
Wood construction is the outstanding issue in this project. Although in this part of the world brick and concrete are the prevailing building materials, building in wood is required on these sand dunes by the local Building Code due to the high energy costal environment, ie. the sand dunes must move below the buildings.
This building is therefore a yet unexplored effort undertaken by the architect/owners. Adapting to the sites and Building Codes very restrictive conditions, construction by a carpenter team with no previous house building experience, procurement of hardwoods from Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia as much as laminated beams from Argentina, building in harsh winter conditions… all are issues relevant to a 3 year process of trial and error.
But then, building under our own terms regardless of effort or cost and far from standard market solutions, implied also a finely tuned interior array of devices and special solutions for practically every convenience of casual beachside enjoyment. The interiors exude sensuality as only polished wood can, interior partitions are completed with glazing till ceiling to ensure acoustic privacy while maintaining total visibility of the roof beams, a string of led lighting runs alongside the ceiling and provides ambient indirect lighting, whilst the heating is provided by solar panels on the roof and an electric accumulator tank which supply hot water to underfloor pipes running under a line of refractive bricks along the length of the whole building.
Seven wood species were used. Eucalyptus grandis pilotis, maritime pine ceilings and interior divisions, lapacho for external walls and floors, iroko for under floor beams and laminated form work for under floors. Purpose designed furniture and interior fittings such as the kitchen island, set of tables and placards are made in finger joint eucalyptus. The interior quality of the nave is nearer a sailing boat than a house, it is an artificial interior floating on rough sea of sand and wind.
The house breathes wood, or wood and sea and sand according to the sun and the wind.
Diana Cabeza is a designer of urban furniture and Jorge Hampton an architect, both practicing with their own offices in Buenos Aires. This husband and wife team undertook the design process outside their office structure and managed to complete all phases till completion during 2015.
Diana Cabeza designs and produces urban furniture for cities worldwide. The standard urban elements are completed with site specific projects such as the Metrobus urban transport system for Buenos Aires, street furniture for Ropongi Hills and Toranomon Hills in Tokyo, etc.
Jorge Hampton is partner in Hampton+Rivoira+arquitectos, a well known local architectural practice since 1984. We have been involved in a variety of built projects including mayor refurbishments (Bank of Boston), interior design (Sofitel hotel), aviary (Temaiken biopark), oil drilling support buildings (YPF), housing projects (Procrear Mendoza), various downtown offices and dozens of family homes.
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