A single concrete column holds up an elegant pavilion in this summer residence, proving that singular ideas are ultimately what make a space outstanding.
Sitting by the shores of a Patagonian lake in South Argentina, this summer residence fits the bill of a dreamy getaway to the T. Much before it arrived at this level of gorgeousness though, it was a cramped up little villa with too many functions to perform and unremarkable, distant views of the lake.
That was until the introduction of an extension to the existing house by NE-AR, an architectural and design firm based in Frankfurt, Germany and co-founded by Lars Nixdorff and Luis Etchegorry. Describing the earlier condition of the house Luis Etchegorry says, “Prior to the extension, all functions of the summer house were distributed in one existing house. The distribution of these functions was relatively poor: insufficient gross usable area and natural light.”
In the original structure, the kitchen, lounge and dining areas were squeezed together with a main bedroom and a bathroom on the ground floor of the house. On a mezzanine upper level, under an inclined roof, there was just about enough space for two more single beds.
Playing around with the available space, the architects at NE-AR decided to incorporate a detached volume as an extension to the existing structure to house the living, dining and kitchen areas.
“The extension now houses all the public areas while the existing house was renovated in such a way that two bigger bedrooms and a fully renovated bathroom were realised,” informs Luis. The newly-built extension is enclosed within sliding glass walls on two sides and is ventilated in summer by the brick work on the side walls.
This pavilion not only draws a clear line between the public and private spaces of the residence, but also fills up the area between the boundary walls of the two neighbouring villas, offering closer, larger vistas of the lake.
The most audacious feature of this extension is the central fireplace, framed by two twisted concrete fins that serve as the main column for the pavilion’s structure.
Luis explains the genesis of the single column saying, “It is in our design philosophy to clearly focus on one strong and guiding conceptual idea. We always question the status quo of architecture and its elements: in this case the articulation of relations between roofs, columns and floors.”
Arriving at the final design for the column took a good deal of thought as Luis adds, “One of the challenges was also to see that the lateral neighbouring walls worked as load bearing ones in order to complement the structural capacities of the main concrete twisted shear walls of the column.”
In Argentina, reinforced concrete is a commonly used construction material and while this formed the basis for the choice of material it was also, as Luis says, “a good opportunity to test our research on structural continuities between roof slab, column and floor based on this material.”
Indeed, the single column with its gracefully twisting walls supports the pavilion structure without obstructing the lake view, besides performing multiple functions beyond its structural capacity. Pipes embedded within its walls for instance, help funnel away rainwater; firewood can be stored in its hollow and the column opens up the roof allowing natural light to enter the space.
The fireplace is further clad by steel plates and between these and the outer surface of the concrete shear walls, there are layers of heat-resistant material that protect the steel armour of the reinforced concrete.
Within the pavilion, the combined effect of wood, brick and concrete create an earthy, rustic ambience that is perfectly suited to take in the natural views of lake and greenery.
The new arrangement of space also bequeaths the residents with a patio formed quite naturally due to the presence of the open area between the main house and extension. This patio is laid with bricks in a zig-zag formation.
On the other side of the pavilion, the 3-metre-wide wooden deck that faces the lake, works as a continuation of the interiors and takes advantage of optimal sun orientation, elaborates Luis. “Thanks to the extension,” says the architect, “the whole house recovered an excellent position closer to the lake shore.”
With its spatial dilemmas not only resolved but transformed into an enviable residence, One Column House stands tall as a symbol of thoughtful, creative and striking architecture.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Mike Mercau;
Structural Diagrams By NE-AR