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Aguas Claras House

The Discipline of Simplicity

Eduardo Castillo

The Japanese word wabi signifies “poverty”, or more specifically “voluntary poverty”, where privation is a revolutionary act conducted to attain spiritual freedom unfettered by the desire for material goods. It involves reducing, purifying, freeing oneself from clutter and ornament in order to reach the profound essence of existence. Turning this concept into architecture demands a simplicity devoid of pretense or vulgarity. Wabi does not focus on refined detail, nor on cost or the effort that has gone into making what exists but rather seeks the profound beauty that resides in the unexpressed, the non-manifest, eschewing excess and arrogance in favor of humility and reticence. Irregularity and imperfections are therefore intrinsic characteristics of this approach based on simplicity, austerity, naturalness and intangibility.

Before being an aesthetic concept, wabi is an ethical and
value-based approach to life. This is how Eduardo Castillo and his group described the Aguas Claras project. The account of their underlying intention and approach tells a far more penetrating story than any drawing or photograph can reveal. It describes a value system to which they have given material form.

First trained as a carpenter learning from the experience of his father before becoming an architect, Eduardo Castillo here employed both his handicraft and intellectual skills. Indeed, his approach to architecture sprung from a deep understanding of the logic behind construction and how elementary pieces are joined together to constitute a whole.

The Aguas Claras House was designed for a location in a forested area of mainly pine trees, typical of the central and southern coast of Chile. Besides strict height constraints, the brief had to meet two other requirements: a surface area of approximately 200 sq. m, and a construction that blended into the surrounding pinewood.

The house...

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