Oct 1, 2016

'Cool Under the Pool', MARK #64, Oct/Nov 2016

Mark Magazine
Publisher: Frame Publishers, Amsterdam
ISSN: 1574-6453

Misleadingly interlocked, ostensibly cantilevered and sumptuously textured; Cerrado House is the 320-m2 weekend and holiday oasis of a journalist couple, on Belo Horizonte’s outer edge–only 10 km from the small village of Moeda–in the Brazilian state Minas Gerais. The house is surrounded by vistas towards the Cerrado, a tropical savanna defined by its sparse, rolling and humid landscape. The isolated location ensures a night-time welkin illuminated by only the moon and stars.

What initially appears to be an abandoned bunker, hunched down in a desolate setting, is instead an exemplar of local craftsmanship. Carlos Teixeira of the architecture firm Vazio to leave unabashedly evident, the house’s hand-made methods of creation. Poured-in-place concrete composes the house’s structure; elongated floor-to-ceiling mullions define the glazing, in concrete’s absence; louvers of eucalyptus wood, sourced from nearby plantations, shade the façades. Just under 400 new, native Vochysia thyrsoidea trees dot the house’s 3-ha plot, and three logs of Schinopsis brasiliensis are stacked to create the kitchen table. Local craftsman João do Ponto created the interior’s woven-leather benches.

The interior is centered on the core communal spaces of living room and kitchen, surrounded by terraces, the largest of which extends toward the west and is exposed to the exterior, below the shallow end of the roof-top pool–which, explains Teixeira, ‘also works as a passive cooling system for the interior rooms right under it’. The floors of the interior are finished in the same concrete, though treated with an amber infused colorant. Perhaps the most tactile aspects of the house are its concrete walls and ceilings–its exposed structure. Planes of concrete appear ‘wrinkled’, as ripples undulating atop water. ‘New plywood panels rendered smooth concrete surfaces; old, used ones were reemployed, irrespective of their shape and condition,’ Teixeira explains. ‘The house’s workforce, including bricklayers and a carpenter, is from a nearby village, and is quite rough, compared to that of Belo Horizonte. And so some errors and contingencies of the materials were accepted.’ The amateur-infused building process unpredictably enriched, and refined, its result.