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BEYOND THE WALL

This singular design in Santiago is a sophisticated reinterpretation of the domestic exterior.

AR_EA 2007 Prize Winner 

What happens if the plan, generally regarded as the key to good house design, is not the generator? Suppose you take various wall conditions and investigate what happens if their functions (inside and out) become the driver for the plan? The architect sees the walls of this low-budget domestic project as a series of delaminated layers (concrete cave, stacked shelving, milky shell and soft skin) into which the different spaces of the house slide.

Each of the wall ‘layers’ has specific climatic, atmospheric, structural, material and functional characteristics, and each contributes to the distinctive character of the completed building.The outer layer of the house is an energy screen generally found in greenhouse construction, which provides thecut-diamond appearance of the building while moderating heating and lighting conditions. The fabric was sewn by a local craftsperson (more accustomed to making blow-up castles for children). The dense P fabric incorporates woven aluminium strips, which reflect 70 per cent of UV rays, and with a light transfer rate of 25 per cent.

Structural shelving elements were prefabricated, partly because on-site construction might not have produced a structure able to withstand earthquakes which are not uncommon in the area; the shelving ‘ribbons’ comprise glulam, plywood and formwork panels. Polycarbonate panels (the ‘milky shell’), like the shelving, could all be erected by local labour, mostly by hand, though installation of the first floor required a crane.

The judges admired the integrity of thinking behind the individual design decisions; these resulted in a completed building which, far from being an arbitrary or fashionable example of folding, had exploited successfully the possibilities provided by site, materials and programme. The layering strategy, with the highly serviced elements (kitchen and bathroom) at the core, made the most of the increasing potential ambiguity between inside and outside space as the plan radiated outwards.

Wall House, Santiago, Chile

Architect: FAR: Frohn & Rojas. Chile

Project team: Marc Frohn, Mario Rojas Toledo. Amy Thoner, lsabella Zapata, Pablo Guzman

Photographs: Cristobal Palma

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