The Broken Lion House
Jose Alejandro Michelsen (draftsman)
Miguel La Rota
A very pronounced slope and a diagonal division produced by a line of trees qualify the specific lot. The trees were planted 25 years ago, probably thinking about a future road that was never built. Such a line of trees defines two sides of the ground: one that enjoys far views towards the valley, and another, which is part of a closed and controlled area. This last one is defined by the presence of the mountains and the surrounding gardens. The house should participate of these two different realities. This meant from the very beginning to build a house with a longitudinal axis perpendicular to the topographic contour lines. The monolithic exterior volume has actually a folded and broken floor in its interior. It is the natural slope that helps to define qualities, hierarchies, and proportions of the interior spaces. The roof on the contrary, is mostly flat only interrupted by a few skylights slightly faced towards the north and the south, revealing the light of different times of the year. The massive east façade faces terraces that are slowly being invaded by weeds and that receive the morning sun. It is a proper space for having breakfast in front of the mountains. Large windows and doors receive the afternoon sun and define the west side of the house that shall warm the interiors for the night. Between the glass and the inside spaces, a lintel describes a threshold between exterior and interior, light and shadow, the landscape scales and inner scales.
During the last decade Bogota’s suburban areas have been subject to intense conurbations. What a few years ago was a beautiful countryside is now being destroyed, and the ecological structures are being seriously affected. This new city doesn’t recognize the importance of public areas, meeting points, or cultural values. Subachoque is one of the few sub-urban areas of Bogotá that hasn’t been affected in such a way. However the commission for a private house in this context should be able to contribute to a sense of place. Issues such as annual and dairy solar movement, native vegetation, the existing landscape with its mountains and slopes ought to be recognized. The house should reveal the qualities of its surroundings, offering new orientations, and meanings. This recognition of the setting doesn’t mean merging into nature, disappearance or dematerialization of architecture. On the contrary the task was to use architecture as an artificial and potentially abstract object that becomes a fix point around which the landscape becomes manifest.
Seen from the west, the house is standing on the hillside as an abstract volume guarded by mountains. From the east, on the contrary, before the access terraces, native vegetation is growing to become a small forest that will hide the house. Only after having crossed the forest, the house and the valley in the background will be visible. The weeds are already invading the terraces. The topography helped to create a great variety of interior spaces in a rather small house. Low spaces of 2.20m high in the bedrooms, but also 4.00m high spaces in the social areas; intimate reading spots and communal working places; lighted and also gloomy areas. This spatial richness of the house has led to an intense appropriation by the owners who experience the house and the surrounding landscape in a rich range of ways. The house was meant to be touched. The rusted iron frames of doors and windows, including handles and door pins, were customized and carefully crafted. The doors are heavy enough in order to feel its weight and inertia when moved. Positioning the doors according to the mood and weather has become an important interaction between inhabitants and architecture. The same has happened with most of the furniture, sofas, tables and couches, which were customized as well. The haptic quality of the wood, carefully worked by great local carpenters, has invited inhabitants to be in constant touch with the space.