An Old Brick Wall Conceals an Urban Oasis in Buenos Aires

An Old Brick Wall Conceals an Urban Oasis in Buenos Aires

The remains of a newsstand now wrap a verdant courtyard and a new steel-framed home.

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Project Details:

Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Architect: Griselda Balian and Estudio Damero / @estudio_damero

Footprint: 1,500 square feet

Year Built: 2021

Structural Engineer: PH Estructuras

Landscape Design: Puro Paisajismo

Lighting Design: Emmanual Antonio Bardelas

Photographer: Javier Agustín Rojas / @javieragustinrojas

From the Architect: "The Villa Ortuzar neighborhood in the city of Buenos Aires is characterized as a low-scale residential neighborhood with many trees. The residency occupies the corner where a neighborhood kiosk had been for many years. During the first half of the 20th century, many of the corners of Buenos Aires served a secondary function within neighborhoods as a meeting point. In order to respect this legacy, as well as the scale of the original construction, the design process began with the recovery and revaluation of the building, choosing to leave its exposed brick shell intact.

"The house is resolved on three floors with a steel structure, an element that orders and organizes all the structural decisions. The directionality of the windows responds to the curvature of the corrugated sheets on the subfloor, making their connection appear much more harmonious.

"This structure serves as a base and provides total freedom for the rest of the enclosure elements. On the ground floor and first floor, large sliding wooden windows provide flexible boundaries. On the second floor, where the bedrooms are located, a series of 10 glazed panels serve as windows, alternating between fixed and opening windows. This play between openness and rigidity explores the user’s relationship between the domestic and the private with the interaction toward the city. Taking advantage of the original height of the old corner kiosk, the house is mounted on it, thus achieving an uninhibited view toward Villa Ortuzar without compromising the privacy of the user or interrupting the neighborhood’s visual identity.

"Functionally the home responds the same. The ground level, which has a direct relationship with the city, has a more flexible use, allowing for the incorporation of a work space without disturbing the family-centered dynamics of the other floors. Since the house faces north, different resolutions were thought of for each floor: semi-covered entrance areas on the ground floor, eaves on the first floor, sunshades on the second floor, and culminating with an open sky terrace on the roof.

"There is a playful relationship between the floors. With different mechanisms used with the terraces, balconies, and half-coverings, the spatial understanding of the building as a whole is never lost. The user always has a visual reference of the other floors, thus achieving a more active type of living: the architecture does not take a back seat, but involves and challenges the user to interact with it. As a finishing touch, a large ash tree located on the sidewalk of the house provides varied colors and visuals throughout the year.

"The architectural challenge in conceiving this house was always achieving a modern and integral construction without losing the historical value of the neighborhood corner. In the design process the focus was on finding a common ground between security and openness, legacy and modernity, community and privacy. This common ground is the architecture, which intertwines family and neighborhood dynamics without taking away the identity of the city."

Photo by Javier Agustín Rojas

Photo by Javier Agustín Rojas

Photo by Javier Agustín Rojas

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