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Ecoscopic house

Concrete geometries

archipelagos - Manolo F. Ufer

When architects build houses for themselves they have the opportunity to make a statement of principles and to use their creations as a laboratory in which to test materials and ideas. Manolo Ufer is a young Spanish architect who moved his practice, archipelagos, from Madrid to Monterrey in northern Mexico, and there he built a house for himself and his parents on the edge of the city. It was one of four he designed as Ecoscopic houses - defining that term as “an interface; a formal composition optimized to channel the energy flows and harvest the material resources that traverse the site.” Or, in plain terms, a house that embraces the landscape, and is passively sustainable. “I wanted the house to create the illusion that I was living in a forest in the sierras, rather than a suburb, a 35-minute drive from my office,” Ufer explains. “That determined the balance of opacity and transparency.” From afar, the 430 sqm house appears to be swallowed up in the trees and jagged mountains; close-up, its site is quite exposed to neighbors and passing traffic. Two sharply angled blocks of concrete are cranked around a narrow sky-lit atrium. At ground level, one block contains a living-dining room that extends 26 m from front to back; the other block is raised a story to shade a portico that serves an outdoor living area. A narrow staircase leads up through the atrium to the master suite on one side, and a row of three bedrooms above the portico. Expansive glazing at either end floods each room with light and side windows pivot open to provide cross ventilation. Tilt-up green roofs and an indoor planter conceal occupants from the street and provide added insulation. “Alignments were shifted to maximize views and direct sunlight,” says Ufer. “The living room faces south and west, and the kitchen receives morning and midday sun. The kids’ bedrooms face east so they wake early, and the parents are to the west. I...

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