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Estudio Madriguera

Viviana Peña Suárez

Envigado, Antioquia, Colombia

December 2022


Viviana Peña Suárez (Project Manager and Lead Architectural Designer)


Do Design S.A.S./ Tatiana Montoya (Lighting design and automation), Grupo Ingenium (Structural, electrical and plumbing designs), Urbanium S.A.S (Construction company), Mauro Emilio Suárez (Structural pre-design consultancy)


Tatiana Montoya y Juan Felipe Serna


Carlos Vélez


The Madriguera Studio serves as an extension of Casa Pajarera, a residence designed for a childless couple, designed between 2011 and 2015. Three years into residing in the house, the clients felt the need to relocate, expand, and share their individual work and sports spaces in a location independent from yet proximate to the house.
This intention, combined with the concept of designing the studio as a cave, allowed the project to be semi-buried. Consequently, the southwestern part of the studio, housing the gym, bathroom, and storage room, remains below ground level and receives natural light through an elongated skylight. Meanwhile, the northeastern section of the project, accommodating the main workspaces, including the meeting room, break room, and work tables, opens up to the forest through a subtle slope in the roof slab and a sloping glass body.
These conditions enable the work areas to benefit from natural light from the north and east, creating the sensation of working in the midst of a small forest, surrounded by the care and shade of the treetops. The glazed body serves a dual purpose: acting as a greenhouse, preserving morning heat and keeping it insulated throughout the afternoon and evening, and functioning as a bay window. Here, inhabitants can recline and unwind on a piece of furniture spanning the entire length of the glass façade. This unique seating arrangement offers a tranquil space to gaze at the surrounding forest, sky, and stars.


The Madriguera Studio is situated at an elevation of 2,450 meters above sea level, nestled in the heart of the central Andes mountain range in northwestern Colombia. The project is located within a private urbanization, set against a rural backdrop in the municipality of El Retiro, less than 20 km from the city of Medellín. It is immersed amid a tropical rainforest ecosystem. The region's climate and ecosystem are defined by average temperatures of 22ºC, along with a diverse array of birds and mammals. The project both benefits from and, simultaneously, raises concerns because the northern side of the lot is designated as a protected forest reserve.
Given the steep nature of the plot's terrain, the developers opted to modify and level a portion of the land, creating artificial terraces. These terraces allow each client to later build their homes on them. One of the primary objectives of the project was to propose an alternative way of living in our geographic context without the necessity of flattening the mountains. This intention, coupled with the owners' routine of daily enjoyment on the terrace amidst the forest and fresh air, led to the second design guideline: building the studio below the ground level of this place. This decision allowed for envisioning the project as a cave or underground shelter.


One of the significant values of the project lies in raising awareness among clients, neighbors, students, and architecture professors familiar with the project. They become cognizant of the imperative to establish more equitable agreements concerning land, water, and forest through collaborative efforts that integrate architecture, art, and science.
The Madriguera Studio, in its relationship with the house, challenges the prevailing trend of flattening mountains for housing construction. While the Pajarera House, by interpreting the concept of "palafito," minimizes alterations to soil stability, allowing vegetation and water runoff to follow their natural paths and growth, the Madriguera Studio, inspired by the concept of a "cave," seeks to minimize its impact on the territory. First, the semi-buried design and glazed body contribute to achieving greater climatic comfort than anticipated at a lower energy cost. Second, the project minimizes its visual impact on the landscape, allowing the mountain and forest to maintain their vital environmental functions while remaining the focal points of the landscape.
These two alternative and complementary approaches to inhabiting the mountain initiate a dialogue between architecture and the land, exploring the intersection of human and animal forms of construction. They also involve a reinterpretation of primitive archetypes, specifically the hut and the cave. This dialogue becomes especially vital and urgent in the current era of climate and environmental crisis.

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