Cesar Becerra Manuel de Rivero Fernando Puente Arnao
GCAQ Ingenieros (Structural Engineer)
Cristobal Palma Iván Salinero
A young family wanted a new house with a large program in relation to the plot size available. Strict building regulations obliged us to be clever in the way we created space, while maximizing the unique condition of its surrounding olive grove. The first step was to place the private family areas in a half-sunken plinth with all rooms having ‘a worm´s eye view’ of the trees, and lots of light. This generated a ‘piano nobile’ terrace with direct relation to the tree branches and surrounded by the maximum possible garden. Finally, social areas were placed hovering over the treetops to deepen the views out to the forest. This volume being “the architecture that had to be Tudor” was built as a metal cage enabling a column free space clad in plywood.
When settling in Lima in the sixteenth century, Spanish Conquistadores planted an olive grove, which now lies in the middle of the ten million inhabitant city. Due to their historical significance, surviving 400 year old olive trees are protected as National Heritage. During Lima’s great expansion of the 1920’s, the forest was urbanized with (culturally and climate alien) Neo-Tudor revival architecture. Proliferation of recent contemporary new buildings in the forest, raised protest from conservative neighbors, leading the government to mandate the preservation of its revival character, by obliging any new construction in the area to be strictly done in Tudor style. We were asked to design a new house in a plot containing 4 of those centennial olive trees. In a rainless desert environment such as Lima, with so few trees and a millennial tradition of masonry building, designing inside a forest and with an assembly construction system is quite a unique task.
The proposed scheme successfully managed to stimulate family life by adapting the traditional house scheme to its particular plot conditions and complying with all heritage compromises. Half-sunken bedrooms acquired great intimacy and environmental comfort while providing a strong relationship with the trees. Outdoor areas were maximized in a playful garden. The weird Tudor straitjacket when turned into a structural element as opposed to simply a ‘style’ enhanced the spatial quality of the living areas, and proved the possibilities of working within very restrictive conditions, still managing to deliver a happily ever after for a contemporary lifestyle.