Alcántara Housing ensemble.
Las Condes, Chile
Cristián Izquierdo L.
Erica Pasetti, Francisco Saul, Pablo Lobos, Osvaldo Peñaloza M.
The project is conceived on the basis of two different typologies within one compositional system: a common walkway, like a Cité —narrow row buildings facing onto a pedestrian street, typical of working-class accommodations from the early 20th century—, and 8 patio houses —a Spanish inherited typology, deeply rooted in Chilean history— are qualified by a continuous arrangement of wooden trusses.
The common space has a continuous enclosure that masks 3 patio-houses to the north and 5 to the south. The houses on its sides have a symmetrical "L" plan around a squared courtyard. Below, the parking lots provide direct access to each house. The main level contains the houses’ common areas around the patio, with one of its sides attached to the edge of the plot and the other to the next house. The second floor contains the bedrooms in a bar attached on both sides to its neighbors, forming two long rectangular pavilions.
The laminated wood structure is arranged under a continuous modulation of 77 cm. with its upright elements exposed on the second floor. Towards the courtyards, they frame the windows, preventing the view of the neighboring house. Towards the walkway, they frame a series of larch tiles, creating a wall. This constant rhythm blurs the differences of property into two unitary volumes above each side of the walkway. Between them, a series of cantilevered planters with trees highlight the entrances to the houses and hide the presence of the surrounding large buildings over the sky.
This set of 8 houses around a common space is located 3 blocks from the main axis and financial center of Santiago. The area was a former garden neighborhood where large estates have been replaced by commercial buildings and high-rises. Throughout this 30 years process, the zoning regulations preserved a small portion of land with a restricted buildable area and a maximum of three stories height. This, instead of retaining the original residential area, provoked the conversion of many houses into offices, universities and service facilities.
The project occupies an irregular plot of 2.000 sqm at the boundary of this low-rise area, half a block from the high-rise buildings. Given the high price of the land, its low constructability and the profits expected by potential investors, a traditional real-estate business implied selling units at unaffordable prices for prospective users. Therefore, we developed the blueprint of the project, the constructor estimated its total costs, and we then gathered a group of 8 families interested in living there. They bought the plot and developed the project without business margins. All the design decisions were discussed with the prospective residents, and between them, till reaching standard agreements for the 8 houses.
We tried to create a green void for sharing a communal life where the kids could play under a continuous background, different from each house. Thus, we liberated the ground of the pedestrian alley and suspended huge planters of 4 feet diameter above each entrance. Each house’s planter, entrance door, and staircase, conform a threshold that mediates between the blind facades on the pedestrian alley and the walls of glass facing the private courtyards.
The Alcántara Housing ensemble was inaugurated a few months before the pandemic began. The large lockdowns unexpectedly forced its new neighbors —some of them friends from before, some barely acquaintances— to live in an immunity bubble. The walkway became a tennis/football/basketball court, the houses main floor’s became common classrooms, the main bedrooms became offices and the private patios became beer gardens. The harsh separation between the walkway and the common areas of the houses, and between the common areas and the bedrooms, allowed a redefinition of the project not as 8 houses around a central area, but as three types of spaces for living: a large space for the whole community, a sequence of shared spaces for small groups, and a series of individual spaces on top. Paradoxically this way of living, instead of losing intimacy, allowed residents to gain it. When people are comfortable together, individuals can leave the group and enjoy a room for one’s own.