Selva Alegre was created to take inspiration from the surrounding environment, the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. This wooden house is located away from the city, in an open landscape ideal for a retreat space. The idea was to make a house that would be unified conceptually and visually with the surrounding natural scenery. The dwelling sits at one end of the lot, near the edge of a creek, allowing uninterrupted visuals throughout the project. The strategy was to leave the ground floor as open as possible and the programmatic divisions clear, so that the design resembles that of a typical “hacienda house” but with a modern twist. We wanted to reinvent the user experience of these centuries old weekend escapes, a typology that has historically dominated the mountainous landscapes from Colombia to Peru. Our concept was to return to the roots of the hacienda in terms of form and material. Bring back the use of wood, stone and clay but with a contemporary mindset, one that felt light and airy. This strategy resulted conceptually in a continuous wavy blanket which gently protects the program below it.
At the interior, a central void creates a clear division between the social and private spaces of the house, preserving the typology of the traditional hacienda house. Overhead light brightens the indoor-outdoor pool and main circulation inside this intermediate space through skylights that also create thermal comfort inside the house through bioclimatic strategies of cross ventilation and chimney effect. The main spaces such as bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen are opened towards the surrounding landscape through prefabricated laminated beams whose curvature frames the visuals, creating a symbiosis between the context and the house. The movement of the mountains served as an inspiration in the beam’s volumetric conception.
A sustainable laminated wood construction system is used for the structure which was completely pre-manufactured in Europe, for subsequent assembly in Ecuador. Laminated wood was our material of choice, both for its flexible properties as well as for the natural feeling that it adds to our design. The computerized parametric model allowed the repetition of specific beams and a total constructability of the roof so that it would be efficient and affordable. Likewise, the repetition of pieces allowed a fast and high construction quality. Automated machines were used to accurately cut and fabricate each piece of wood, creating a puzzle that fitted perfectly when assembled. The laminated and curved beams are repeated with the same radius, which allow the different folds of the roof. The triangulation of the structure creates an efficient assembly and also ease of transportation. For the coating of the house local materials were used such as stone, tile and the use of local craftsmen for the profiling of the windows made of copper-colored coated steel, which were handmade.
The final result is a delicate balance of stone and glass that is blanketed by an energetic yet comforting wood structure that is truly complementary to its setting. The interiors follow the initial concept with beautiful modern textures and material artifacts that balance and activate the architectural space. From the use of advanced manufacturing to the modern use of timber products to combining local and international experiences, there was much knowledge and information to gain in the local industry. This is the first time that a construction of this type has been achieved to such a detailed level in Ecuador. Integrating digital technology with local manual labor techniques has not only led us to produce a unique type of architecture but also to contribute to the improvement of construction possibilities in the country.
Architects: Leppanen + Anker Arquitectura
Lead Architects: Aaron Leppanen, Gabriela Anker
Design team: Aaron Leppanen, Gabriela Anker, Veronica Burbano, Camila Burbano,
Sofía Chávez, Ana Belén Acurio, Carolina Rodriguez, Janina Sánchez, Kevin Aragón,
Gabriela Valdez, Caroline Dieden
Interior Design Firm: Insólito
Interior Designers: Verónica Burbano, Camila Burbano
Structural Design: EDIMCA - Rubechi Wood Technology
Construction & Engineering: Miguel Ángel Salazar, Francisco Vélez, Fabian Miño,
Milton Perugachi, Rodrigo Lalaguaña, Alberto Dionicio
Landscape: Mònica Bodenhorst
Photographers: Bicubik Photo, JAG Studio