House for a Violinist
Playa Destilladeros, Pedasi, Panama
Frank Lee (Structural Engineer)
Mr. Daniel Suaya and Ms. Graciela Nuñez
The owners sought to create a home that would allow them to move from the city to the countryside where they could enjoy their lives together in a much more natural context. To that end we thought that the house should be a diaphanous container immersed in the specific biome, where the owners could surrender to the constant multi- sensorial experience afforded by nature. To that end the house would need to be organized and detailed in response to different orientations- to the south and east it should be deconstructed, with perimeter glazed enclosures giving way to open terraces and decks oriented primarily towards the ocean, while to the north and west minimal openings would be cut through interior walls to allow stealthy views to the entrance courtyard that mediates with the community. These walls would be clad with a fixed timber louver screen made of 2”x6” salvaged southern yellow pine boards and along the west elevation at the courtyard this timber structure would screen the corridor leading from the garage into the house. The upper part of the central cubic structure would be clad on three sides with polycarbonate panels, while the fourth would be glazed so as to allow views from the mezzanine to the ocean. The house would be open on all sides to the surrounding natural systems in order to allow the owners the multi- sensorial connection with nature that they had sought from the beginning.
I had known the clients- he a successful entrepreneur and she Panama´s most renowned classical violinist- for several years, having travelled together repeatedly along the southern Pacific coast of the Azuero Peninsula searching for a site where they could build a home and make a life-changing move from the city. So by the time they had acquired the hilltop site overlooking the ocean to the south and we finally stood together thrilling at the sight of humpback whales breaching within swimming distance of the beach, it was clear that the house should open out to the constantly changing marine spectacle while providing a more mediated, protected spatial delineation towards the access road and entrance courtyard to the north. In this manner, an “L” shaped plan was devised, where the common areas were organized in one wing, extending east to west and facing south to the ocean and north to the entrance courtyard. The second wing, extending north to south and facing east and west, would contain the music studio/ guest room, storage and garage. All of these spaces, with the exception of the mezzanine studio, would be organized on one level, raised above the undulating terrain. The central communal space, comprised of the main entrance, living room and mezzanine studio, would rise above the house in a double height cubic structure protruding through the roof and connect to a massive open air deck that would “float” above the hillside and allow unimpeded views to the ocean.
Evidence that the house has met the expectations of the owners can be found in their own words. In that regard, Daniel Suaya wrote: “As did the land before, the house now talks to us, invites us to reflect, to think, to feel. It transmits emotions to us, illuminates us with the light that the sun reflects according to the time of day, and transforms itself into a sanctuary open to the forest and the sea, connecting us to our own being, to nature and the ecosystem of which we are part.” And Graciela Nuñez adds: “As I walked towards the site where the house would be built and saw the sea, I was for a moment speechless. The sea in all its extension, with all its power, beauty and sounds led me peacefully into a communion with nature. I continue to feel that same sensation of peace and communion with nature every time we enter our marvelous home, since we feel that we are part of the nature that surrounds us. I feel that I am sea, I feel that I am the giant Corotú, I feel that I am a fresh, free breeze, that I am fertile earth. The house allows us to enjoy a sensation of freedom in every corner. There is a beautiful acoustic quality to the house that motivates me not only to play my violin but also inspires me, along with all of nature´s sounds, to compose organic and sinuous melodies and rhythms.”