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Hillside House by Paisajes Emergentes, Medellín, Colombia

Rather than create a unified space, the architect preferred the idea of many houses in one. Photography by Iwan Baan and Christobal Palma

Medellín has been spared the blight of sprawling suburbs; there is still a sharp divide between city and countryside, and the middle-class residential developments you see driving in from the airport are generally well integrated with the landscape. That’s the case with the 500m² house that Callejas designed in the pueblo of Envigado for a sculptor, his wife and their 12-year-old daughter.

The parents love to entertain and he gives cooking classes, so they wanted a large party space, an open kitchen, and quiet rooms for each member of the family at opposite ends of the house. ‘Rather than create a unified space, we preferred the idea of many houses in one, and that was also consistent with the large volume the clients wanted,’ says the architect.

As you approach, the house suggests a piece of origami. The concrete frame and brick infill are covered with epoxy-sealed plastic plaster. Folded walls are white, angled roofs a pale grey-green, and they form a seamless whole with no mouldings or gutters to interrupt the flow. It’s a house a sculptor might have carved from a block of stone and the owner’s personality is expressed in the form and detail.

The iron window mullions and door frames were hand-fabricated by the same craftsmen that make his sculptures, and chips of stone left over from those art works are used to pave the driveway. The master bedroom projects out over the flagged entry path beside a linear pool that is used to collect rainwater. The daughter’s bedroom occupies a similar position at the far end of the house.

Callejas describes the plan as ‘an irregular polyhedron with short straight lines, full of incisions and sudden turns.’ The voids and turns give each area of the house a distinctive identity and orient every room to a different view - of rolling farmland, a coniferous forest, a grove of white-blooming yarumo trees, and even a distant glimpse of the city. From every point you can look out in at least two different directions, and the views are layered, with corners of the house and new plantings in the foreground. Windows are placed high or low to frame specific areas and the tallest embrace the principal vistas.

There are about 200 openings in total, including the inset skylights, so that the house feels very solid and transparent at the same time. Windows slide back onto terraces and a courtyard or open like concertinas and the glazing bars have a period feel, as in Lina Bo Bardi’s glass house in São Paulo, which was one source of inspiration.

Architect Paisajes Emergentes, Medellín
Project team M Juan Carlos Aristizabal, Farid Maya, Erica Martinez, Sebastian Monsalve
Landscaping Paisajes Emergentes + Carlos Zapata

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