2022

MCHAP

Ballen house

LCLA office with Clara Arango

EL Retiro, Colombia

June 2021

PRIMARY AUTHOR

LCLA office

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Charlotte Hansson, Gloria Munera (Construction), LCLA office + Epifita (Landscape Architecture)

CLIENT

Alejandro Ballen

PHOTOGRAPHER

Luis Callejas

OBJECTIVE

What could have been a single larger house was planned as dispersed volumes positioned in a steep slope, each one situated uniquely according to the topographic features of the forest clearing.
Originally the site was a forest clearing used for cattle pasture, creating the opportunity to reconfigure the landscape by designing new gardens that link both structures.
One house stands four meters over the terrain standing on a single cross shaped column, while the other long and partially sunken house acts as a retention wall. The stainless steel details, window profiles, and formwork are shared between both structures, designed by the architects and developed in stainless steel to avoid future maintenance.
The experience of the houses differs in the way that the structural solutions create two different climates and relationships with the slope, one closer to the ground, cave like, and the other elevated and airy. The gardens link both houses, and were planted with species that seem to be from a much higher climatic zone, what in Colombia is called “Paramo”. Wild orchids, bromeliads, and other small plants were selected for their similarity to high-altitude Paramo plants. In a climate that is indeed cold, high, and mountainous, it allows for a garden that is a fantasy of plants that look like other plants from higher altitudes.

CONTEXT

The client commissioned a house for the future, and was on board with the idea of building smaller dispersed structures rather than a larger house. For some years it will be used as a local base to meet with family and friends. In the future the house could become the main residence. The project created the opportunity to deviate funds from what could have been a larger house, into the reconstruction of a landscape damaged by cattle. The landscape in this tropical climate serves as extension of the interior. The same details and materials in outdoor areas are used indoors, which is part of the experiment in making the houses feel larger, as one of them is just 60 square meters and the other 75.

PERFORMANCE

Ultimately the two structures behave as a single house; therefore, they are not an exercise in minimal living, but rather an experiment on satisfying the needs of a larger space by relying on the gardens as spaces that can complement the interiors. Both structures offer completely different atmospheres by employing opposite ways to relate to the slope and the carefully designed gardens.