20.12.2007

Grecia 3191

The building is located in the Núñez neighborhood, which is characterized by low constructions and a community feeling; it is almost as if it were from another era.


TERRAIN

The lot’s dimensions are atypical. It measures 17.32m (across) by 8.78m (back). This is unusual, as the standard front measurement in Buenos Aires is 8.66m. The lot is on a block that measures 40m, less than most because it is cut off by an alley. This gives the building greater presence, as it occupies almost 50% of the entire block. Another characteristic of the terrain is that it is across from the Ferrocarril Mitre train tracks, which means it has an uninterrupted view for more than 50m.

PROGRAM

This project is a three-storey, multifamily residential building; it was commissioned by a family with three siblings, one of whom will live on each floor. Though at this stage the owners are all members of the same family, the building is versatile enough so that eventually the units can function independently, with individual and common services that would not affect the privacy of each owner.

THE BUILDING

On the basis of the terrain itself, we attempted to maintain the neighborhood’s scale and respect its appearance, bearing in mind the major impact that a new building measuring 17m across would have on this particular block. In keeping with the municipal regulations about maximum height and without invading the sidewalk or the air space beyond the official limit, we were able to harmonically incorporate the new volume into the block. On the ground floor are some of the services such as the plant room, parking spaces and laundry room. The deck is one of the most important spaces; it is where the activities that gather family and friends take place, and it could be used in the same way should the future owners not be related. It is where the barbeque grill, the solarium and the pool are located. A concrete slab projecting over the deck constitutes the table’s interior-exterior space.

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UNITS

Each floor contains one apartment that measures approximately 100m2 (328 sq f), and each floor is a large space where different functions are clustered without curtailing continuity. This idea is further accentuated by the bathroom-cluster, which «rests» on the floor from which it is separated by a small (12cm) step. Although the distribution allows for a tradition way of occupying the rooms (kitchen-dining room-living room-study-bathroom-bedroom), the plan is open to other variation and can function in different ways depending on the user’s needs. Due to the particularities of the lot, it was decided to open up the façade of the units as much as possible, making the most of the open views. The back of the units, however, were closed off, placing bookcases, closets and other elements that generally invade space there.

STRUCTURE

One of the structural challenges was how to handle a 17m- facade without a rim joist and slabs resting on three points. We wanted to accentuate the broad view and we didn’t want to interrupt it with any structural element. The curtain wall that goes from floor to ceiling further accentuates this sense of space. The structure defines the building. The different structural elements of reinforced concrete resolve the structural demands by means of the construction and, at the same time, define the space as a whole. Once the concrete phase of the construction was finished, the quality of the spaces and the importance of the structural elements became readily evident. Since there is no added ornamentation, all that was left to do was install the enclosure on the front and the masonry around the perimeter. For this reason, we decided to emphasize the importance of the elements by exposing the material used for slabs, floors, beams and columns.

MATERIALS

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In keeping with the criteria employed for the raw concrete, we used noble and lasting materials. In addition to the stone represented by the concrete, we made use of wood, aluminum and glass. These four basic elements and their different technological variations were used for almost the entire construction.
This allowed us to reaffirm the idea of austerity in our use of both economic and formal resources. This is evident in our choice of materials as well as in the resolution of an apparently simple yet utterly complex structure like a home, a program so essential to our profession.

MEASURE

The module is the underlying criterion that provides order; it organizes and relates the various elements. The joints in the slabs’ formwork and visible concrete lines coincide with the aluminum framing of the curtain wall, with the structure, with the kitchen cabinets and the bookcase, with the floor joints. The entire construction is modeled according to the same criterion. We start with a unit and we transfer it to other elements. The facade is modeled by these same means, giving a sense of harmony to the relationship between the parts and the whole. The bathroom, for example, is modeled on the basis of the standard tile measurement, 15×15 cm, which is the material we chose as covering. This allows us to avoid cuts and waste, and it orders the space and its elements.

SPATIAL CONCEPT

There are no secrets; the construction displays itself just as it is. It can be read the same way in its three dimensions: floors, cuts sections and views. When looking at the façade of the building, one can distinguish the different uses that take place inside through the use of the materials. In the kitchen and the bathroom, we used glass bricks for the enclosure and in the dining room, living room, study and bedrooms we used wooden brise-soleil, which, in addition to protecting the interior from the sun’s rays, block vision to the interior of the units. The cross section also underscores this idea of a group made from parts. In the same way, the functions are gathered in «functional packages» both on the ground floor and in the floor plans and deck. Where, on one level, we find the laundry room, on the next we find the kitchens and on the top floor the pool. The same is true of the plant rooms and the bathrooms in the functional units. The construction seems to be bound together in three directions both functionally and formally.

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CONSTRUCTION

We were particularly careful that the idea we had formulated later become the idea constructed. This entailed extensive and detailed documentation that took several months to complete. We tried to resolve as many detail as possible early on, before the construction had started. All these efforts would save us trouble down the road.
That’s not a minor concern. It is common to come across interesting projects and even innovative formal proposals that are not materialized in the construction. Problems at the construction phase and last minute decisions often mean that the construction’s details do not represent the original idea, and negatively influence the construction as a whole.
As a result, we thoroughly outlined the different materials, brands to be used, slab formwork designs and floor joints, and any other element that it is possible to define at the project phase. The construction in its entirety was built without major alterations in accordance with the specifications sheet that, in the end, became a sort of guide to style.

Buenos Aires, September, 2006.

DVS, AA. Díaz Varela Sartor, architects

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