Wall house / FAR frohn&rojas
Wall house innovates on house design, through a sustainable soft skin. This house was awarded the 2007 AR Emerging Awards and selected as one of the 2008 Record Houses by Architectural Record.
With a limited budget, our office was asked to design a residence for a retired couple in one of the suburban areas that stretch out from the center of Santiago de Chile along the Pan-American Highway. We were immediately curious about the ambiguous nature of the couple’s purchased lot: while technically being part of a suburban subdivision, the development actually projected a highly rural image through its dirt roads, large lots of more than 50,000 square feet, and most importantly its clever use of tall hedges to enclose the lots on their perimeters and provide a high level of privacy. Finding that the hedges, while blocking off any visual connection to the immediate suburban context yet still opening up to views of the distant Andean mountains, could be understood as an outer layer of building skin, they became an intriguing starting point for the project. Using this new understanding of the hedge, we developed the idea of a house based upon a series of separated wall layers which structure the house and progressively fade it out, starting from its solid, innermost core to its soft and delicate encasing.
While the “traditional” single family home, regardless of locale, typically establishes a strong separation between interior and exterior through solid walls and clearly defined window and door openings, our design creates a gradual and hazy transition between the two, finally including the exterior in its hierarchy of interior spaces. Based on 4 layers, in between which residential activities result, each layer offers its very specific structural, material, functional, atmospheric, or climatic qualities and contributes to an intelligent hierarchy for a limited-budget project: while the innermost zones contain the most demanding functions associated with home (i.e. kitchen and bathroom), the selection of materials and finishes is allowed to ‘roughen up’ toward the exterior. Moving from room to room plays with a perception of moving deeper into or further out, with changes of materiality and lighting providing a range of qualitative experiences and cues.