South American Houses – Summer 2022
José Zanine Caldas
In more than three decades of activity, José Zanine Caldas has designed and implemented hundreds of different architectures, mainly for private homes. This selection of 3 houses represents the basis of his famous architectural language, as well as his creative versatility in facing the challenges of each new project. Caldas has always focused on the characteristics of the land and its environment, in order to make his architecture and design resemble nature and not the other way around.
Maison démontable, 1980
Caldas designed this disassembled house in 1980, and strove to design it as an easy-to-build, easy-to-disassemble structure. Flat-packed for more efficient shipping, the house could be assembled anywhere by anyone.
Passionate about the environment and fiercely opposed to the massive destruction of his country’s rainforests, Caldas here uses solid ipe wood salvaged from the forests and farmlands of Bahia, Brazil.
The Dismountable House has an open layout of four quadrants separated only by a central column supporting the roof. Interior walls can be added according to the user’s specifications. The interchangeable exterior panels can be customized to the user’s needs. Four panels are designed with movable louvers for ventilation. Each wall junction is designed with built-in corner shelves. A pair of double glass and wood doors and a single all-wood door serve as entrances.
Casa de Zanine, Brasilia, 1963
This house is the personal house of Zanine Caldas, built by him in 1963 on the edge of a vast lake in the suburbs of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. He designed this entire house for himself and his family, three years after the inauguration of Brasilia as the Brazilian federal capital.
First of all, he starts by building a small outbuilding next to the future house, in which he will live with his family during the construction. This idea of living in an annex of a future house during its construction is already a modernist construction idea. This modernist influence can be seen in his work from the 1950s.
The final house, obviously larger than its annex, shows traces of the architectural language that Caldas would later develop, and which would guide his work as an architect. One example is the regular use of wooden pillars.
The house was renovated in 1970, a swimming pool was added to the complex, and some modifications were made, while maintaining the original idea of the place.
Casa Vlasek, Rio de Janeiro, 1974
This exceptional house was built by Caldas in 1974 and is located in Rio de Janeiro, still in Brazil. It is also called “Cuca’s House”.
Caldas originally built this house as a gift to his youngest daughter. The house is supported by the wooden pillars we mentioned earlier. Here, glass walls and large balconies are added. Also, a large swimming pool is built and the whole complex enjoys an unreal view of the sea.
This construction brings the relationship between architecture and topography to a new level, and even from the outside of the house one has the impression of a floating structure over Rio de Janeiro and its sea.
As is often the case in Caldas’ work, the living room is the fundamental and central point of the building, placed here at a strategic point of pure contemplation. Also, we can note that the furniture dressing the interior of the house is fixed to the floor, and is an integral part of the architecture of the whole.
Some archive photos of Casa Vlasek at the time of Zanine Caldas:
Oscar Niemeyer was born in Rio de Janeiro on December 15, 1907. He is at the origin of several hundred architectural constructions, whether private homes or public buildings. Among his works, we find the headquarters of the Communist Party in Paris, the House of Culture in Le Havre or even the surrounding structure of the cathedral of Brasília, representing hands open to the heavens. He was awarded the Pritzker Price in 1988 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2004.
Strick House, Santa Monica, 1964
The Strick House, is the only house built by Niemeyer in the United States. It is located in Santa Monica in California and was built in 1964 for the director Joseph Strick. Perfect achievement of modernism, this house of Santa Monica is dressed with pieces of designers like Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand or Ray and Charles Eames.
The construction of this house was quite special. The Strick family and Niemeyer never met, and the architect never set foot on the site. The design process was conducted entirely through a series of letters. Later, another architect would handle the drawings and Anne Strick oversaw the completion of the residence.
The house is interesting because it is located on a street with strong architectural connotations, with neighboring houses that are not left out on the subject. In particular, there are houses signed Frank Lloyd Wright and Paul R. Williams.
Featuring a 4m20 high glassed-in living room, the 478m2 living space includes five bedrooms and six bathrooms in a T-shaped floor plan. The glazed indoor-outdoor pavilion, with a flat roof suspended by an exo-skeletal structure.
Canoas House, Barra de Tijuca, 1951
This Niemeyer house is considered one of the most significant examples of modern architecture in Brazil. Built in Barra de Tijuca, in the shadow of a hill overlooking the bay of Rio, this Casa das Canoas was designed by Oscar Niemeyer for his own use and that of his family.
In the early 1930s, he acquired the land and built this 200 square meter house with many bay windows to enjoy the view on the surrounding nature and functional furniture designed by him. Accidentally destroyed by fire in 1963, he rebuilt it with the help of his son Dion, also an architect. He installed his first design office there.
Here, the architect went against local custom by choosing an elevated site that offered a view of the city below through the trees. The curves of the residence and its pond are interrupted by the powerful presence of an outcrop of the rock on which the city rests. A thin sheet of concrete forms the roof that barely rests on the glass volume of the the glass volume of the main level, the rooms are on the lower level.
While the purism of Le Corbusier was based on a construction with an almost mathematical precision, Niemeyer showed that modernity did not have to reject nature or sensuality. Also, artist friends of the architect were involved in this very personal project. Sculptures by Alfredo Ceschiatti animate the garden designed by Roberto Burle Marx. The link developed by Niemeyer between architecture, nature and art is unique, and this house in Canoas remains one of his most impressive creations, although on a much smaller scale than his future projects in Brasilia for example.
Camargo House, Brasilia, 1985
Niemeyer adopted a cleaner but equally elegant design for this house. Built in a residential suburb of Brasilia, it is adjacent to the street, behind a fence. The entrance is a simple rectangle, but under a porch with a sloping wall. The carved window is that of a smoking area and brings a dynamic detail on the simple white wall. While the street side facade is silent, the garden side of the house opens wide to nature.
The interior plan is as open as in Niemeyer’s earlier houses. The spaces interlock naturally and not under the constraint of an artificial structural module. The dining area. The large iron and green glass screen was not designed by Niemeyer. The witty design of the staircase and its banister illustrates Niemeyer’s mastery.
Luis Ramiro Barragán was born in 1902 in Mexico and died in 1988 in Mexico City. He is one of the most famous Mexican architects known for his style, a synthesis between vernacular and modernist architecture. Barragán won the Pritzker Prize, the highest award in architecture, in 1980. His personal home, the Luis Barragán House and Studio, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
Casa Barragan, Mexico, 1948
The Casa Luis Barragán, built in 1948, represents one of the most transcendent works of contemporary architecture at the international level, as recognized by UNESCO when it included it in its 2004 World Heritage List. It is the only individual property in Latin America to have obtained such an honor. It is a masterpiece in the development of the modern movement that merges traditional and vernacular elements.
Luis Barragán’s influence on world architecture continued to grow during this period and his house, faithfully preserved as it was inhabited by its author until his death in 1988, is one of the most visited sites in Mexico City by architects and students.
This museum, which includes the residence and studio of its creator, is owned by the government of the state of Jalisco and the Luis Barragán Foundation.
The exterior of the Barragan studio house:
Casa Pedregal, Mexico, 1950
Just after completing his studio house, Barragan will follow up with another major piece of his architecture: the Casa Pedregal. The residence is located in a lava field south of Mexico City. Casa Pedregal is the largest private residence designed by Luis Barragán. Its construction began in 1947 and was completed in 1950.
Upon entering the property, the ideas of Casa Barragan, immediately noticeable in the house’s pink palette, revealing the architect’s predilection for intense, vibrant colors. We come across pastel walls, projecting slices of light and a sense of peace.
And yet, the house is located in one of the most populated areas in the world: Mexico City, or more precisely, an expanse of volcanic rock that stretches for more than 80m. Untouched until the 1940s, this dark and rocky terrain is due to a nearby volcano.
Casa Gilardi, Mexico, 1976
This house, the last of Barragan’s career, was designed as his own home, highlighting the facades and adding natural elements like light and water. The dark, bold Mexican hues bring out the cultural respect the architect had for his work. Built around an existing tree and heavily influenced by painters, this house is perhaps the most colorful of all his works, with blue, pink, blue and yellow.
Barragan accepted the commission with two conditions to the project: the huge Jacaranda tree must be kept on the site, and the pool requested by the Owner as well. In fact, the house is arranged in such a way that the street is closed and reinforces its interiority.
This last house is located in the streets of Mexico City, in a long and narrow field of 10x36m. Barragán, at the age of 80 and after almost 10 years of inactivity, is carrying out his last work, which perhaps symbolizes his architectural thought more than the others.