Playa La Escondida, Peru
Barclay & Crousse Architecture
Llanos & Flores S.A. (Structural Engineering) Edward Barclay (contractor / site architect)
Juan Carlos Verme
Jean Pierre Crousse
The design process starts imagining an abstract and plain volume whose limits are defined by building regulations. Then, during the design process, this theoretical solid is “excavated”, removing matter bit-by-bit as archaeologists remove sand to discover the pre-Columbian ruins in this region. This ‘subtractive logic’ is applied to all scales of the project. That results in exterior spaces merging with interior spaces in a continuous fluid space within an enclosure. The absolute and infinite vastness of the desert give way to the intimate exterior spaces of dwelling when crossing this enclosure. Within it, a large terrace is conceived as an ‘artificial beach’ that relates to the ocean by a long and narrow pool. The living/dining space roof is conceived as a weightless beach umbrella. Limits between the living/dining space and the terrace are naturally erased by frameless glass sliding panels. An open staircase follows the natural topography and leads to the bedrooms level, beneath the terrace. The use of ochre/sand colour, found also in pre-Columbian and colonial houses, prevents the building from visually aging as it gathers layers of desert dust, and reinforces the sense of unity of the excavated volume.
The project emerges from a process of reflection on certain factors that we retain essential: the climatic conditions of the Peruvian coast, the geographical characteristics of the coast in which the dwelling was to be located, and the clients needs. Between the Andes range and the ocean there is a long thin strip of dusty, dun-coloured desert almost at sea level. Although the Peruvian desert is one of the most arid ones in the world, its climate is not extreme. Temperatures range from 14°C minimum in winter to 29°C maximum in summer, with very little variations between day and night due to a high percentage of humidity. Even though, to inhabit the desert, we believe it is essential to ‘domesticate’ the absolute and eternal order of this particular landscape without denying or betraying it. The clue was to create the necessary intimacy to live in though integrating to the vastness and abstraction of the Peruvian coastal landscape.
Without the need for shelter, architecture is liberated. The mass and the transparency are arranged to give the impression of being in a bigger place. Pleasure of living, intimacy and contact with nature are at the core of spacial concern. The design is focused in several successive project strategies. In the first place, the space is delimited to be isolated. This delimitation of space is then opened to “capture” the exterior space, valorizing certain characteristics of the landscape that surrounds it. Secondly, the reciprocal connection between the isolated space and the captured space is established. The house is therefore determined as an instrument that induce a dialogue between human being, architecture and landscape, and thus re-defining their meanings with this action.