By: Diego Rodríguez
What is quality in architecture? How can we measure such an open concept?
If every turn, every detail, every sequence that gives form to an architectural experience it is thought throughly, can we say it has quality? Can we really measure the amount of thought that gets put into a building? I think we can. I think we are capable of at least exploring the idea to perceive the process of thinking behind a material solution that conforms space. When someone thinks of a window, a threshold, a hallway or a set of stairs like it was the first time, we can be sure that a bridge between thought and matter has been constructed. And such an experience at least takes us near the concept of quality in design.
Casa Taller Tampiquito is a house tailored for a very particular person: an industrial designer, a creative woman that works with ceramics. She asks Dear Architects for a simple house for herself. She wants to rest, work, cook, and be with friends.
A descending lot suggests a solution for separate functions but also an opportunity to build a relation between the existing public stairway and a possible order for the new house. The solution: an ascending spiral that rises from this underground level into an open space where you rediscover the mountains. The house is built from this simple principle.
If the basement level feels part of the street and open to the neighborhood once you enter the house the experience is quite different. We are struck by an uncanny association: a stairway that runs over a kitchen, it literally steps over a blender, some mangos and bananas. The diagonal traced by the stairs pulls our body upstairs. We can’t wait to climb up.
The sequence of the stairs inside the house has 3 main moments: a narrowness that emphasizes a vertical space, a continuum diagonal space that runs through the opposite back corners of the house, and finally, the openness of the terrace.
But it’s in the middle of this sequence where one experiences the second striking moment of the house: a double set of diagonal views that transforms the space of a stairway into a much richer relation to the whole house and to the site. One diagonal opens up towards the level we just left: the entry hall. And the second diagonal pulls us even more towards the sky. Light and ground bounded together through a simply but very well built relation between two vertical planes and 3 different materials.
The geometry of this two rotating planes gives place to diverse ways to play with the idea of a mirrored space. We find the same formal principle even in the reduced enclosed spaces. Does this extreme formalism have any sense?? Is this quality? Repetition, relations between the parts and the whole.
Once we reach the end of the sequence everything gets fixed again. The vastness of the landscape and the presence of the mountain give the whole sequence all the sense it needs.
The house really feels without a ceiling. There is a suspended white box that occupies the east end of the whole space where the main bedroom is. But it does not emphasize the horizontal plane that covers the kitchen area. This illusion it’s important. A spiral without ceiling. Without ending.
One of the architects argues that there is a cavity or enclosed space in each of the 3 levels, a core you may say, but I personally didn’t find it. Each stillness or encapsulated space it is pulled out and expanded towards the exterior, searching for that open hole that connects your gaze to the sky.
You also find that each line, each vertex has an echo, it expands to something else; a change of color or texture, or a simple line drawn over the floor. Another gesture that connects with the whole.
Site and body, drawn together by a constant extension of each.
If the ability to use of matter to create this connections is a relevant issue in terms of quality measurement, then we can assure this little house in Tampiquito has quality.