Chapada Diamantina, a region characterized by a plateau with an average altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level situated in the center of the state of Bahia (Brazil), includes a National Park of the same name. Encompassing six municipalities, the Park boasts, on its 152,000 hectares, breathtaking landscapes with mountains, canyons, caves, rivers and waterfalls, as well as diverse fauna and flora typical of the Cerrado and Sertão biomes.
The area known as do Capão Valley, in the municipality of Palmeiras, is one of the most well-known gateways for trails and hiking activities in the region. It contains a small village (Caeté Açu) and some inns and residences scattered along its longitudinal axis.
This scenery was chosen by a family from Salvador to establish their refuge from their busy urban life. Their desire was to find a place with privileged views that would be isolated from other constructions, where they could completely detach from their daily grind.
The site they acquired possessed said characteristics and was located eight kilometers from the village and only 200 meters from the end of the road, in an area known as Bomba, which is situated between Branco Hill, the protagonist of the landscape, and do Candombá Mountain Range.
The residence was erected on an elevated piece of land inside the valley, neighboring the deepest stretch of a river. The house is accessed via a slope and faces Branco Hill. Slightly above access level, one already has a wonderful view of the landscape, which covers the entire valley and faces said hill.
The setup of the building is based on two principles: a volume elevated above the ground, in order to avoid contact with the moisture of the valley floor and the preservation of the topography; and definition of a volume aligned longitudinally with the lot, whose narrow shape prevents a transversal distribution of the program along the contours lines.
Therefore, the house is accommodated on a small cut in the topography in the posterior portion of the lot and projects over the slope, reaching a distance of 3.5 meters from the ground at its farthest end from the anchoring point.
Distributed on a single floor, the residential program is lean and consists of a main volume and an annex. It includes two suites (one inside the main volume and the other, outside), a veranda, a living room and a kitchen sharing an open environment, a service area with a small toilet and an exercise/meditation room attached to the block that contains the annexed suite. A terrace garden on top of the building serves as a lookout with an unobstructed view.
The orthogonal layout, with its neat and precise lines, is featured in most of the environments. However, one diagonal cut across the plan interrupts the monotony and transfers tension to said Cartesian arrangement. Through the oblique façades created by this line, a sense of continuity is established between the main volume and the annex, as they become united.
At this point, an important void appears in the central portion of the set, defining the entrance to the main volume and to the annex. This patio is an area protected from excessive wind that provides the social areas with filtered natural light. This setting transforms the building into an important reference on a human-scale, when compared to the landscape, given that the monumental external environment makes any element that relates to it look miniature.
The design of the house was highly impacted by feasibility constraints regarding both construction and materials. Initially, glulam was to be utilized for the structural components, but the idea was abandoned due to difficulties with logistics, as large trucks would have a hard time maneuvering in the rugged area.
The cast-in-situ reinforced concrete option was the only one left following the realization that the materials had to be delivered in small amounts at a time, even though this would hinder the execution of the project.
The structural system proposed sought to avoid disturbing the original topography. Therefore, a decision was made to reduce the number of support points of the main volume. Two cylindrical pillars support two inverted beams that cross the house lengthwise, giving rise to a five-meter cantilever. Said beams also supports, with the aid of metal rods, the roof slab of the main veranda.
Said system turns out to be a powerful visual feature of the house and bestows lightness to its setup. In addition, the slab sans beams became the very ceiling finish, doing away with a second layer of materials, and allowed for the use of floor-to-ceiling frames.
The selection of materials for the house kept a close relationship with the locale. Architectural reinforced concrete is referred to as “man-made stone”. In this project, it embodies the spirit of the rocks from the region and is utilized in a rustic form as an authentic part of the complex process required when building in a remote location.
Therefore, one can understand how the materials act as protagonists in this design by observing the relation between the concrete found in the structure and walls and the wood of the frames, exterior panels, flooring and furnishings. It is interesting to explore the temporal aspect of said materials, as the behavior of each element over the years will transform the architectural set into a component integrated to the landscape. Darkened concrete, aged wood and mature landscaping, will serve as a statement of how the man-nature symbiosis slowly evolved in the valley environment.
Date: 2012 – 2014
Location: Vale do Capão – Palmeniras/Bahia
GPS Coordinates: 12°39’12.8″S 41°29’26.2″W (see on google)
Site Area: 12.000 m²
Size: 320,00 m²
Author: Adriano Mascarenhas
Contributors: Saulo Coelho, Helder da Rocha, João Guedes e Fernanda Cruz Rios
Construction: Jaime Villas Boas
Structure: Ruy Bentes Engenharia de Structures
Images: Leonardo Finotti