NO.V.A HOUSE

Studio Arthur Casas as Architects

Energycompany AMPLA, part of Italian group ENEL, aiming Rio’s 2016 Olympics and the challenges of energy and water supply in Brazil, started with the support of Rio’s universities and the city of Niteroi the project N.O.V.A. (which stands for We Live Tomorrow Now, in Portuguese). It sought to seek alternatives to answer contemporary concerns on sustainability, flexibility and adaptation of architecture to present and future challenges. It is not about forging concepts for a theoretical future; on the contrary, the objective is to break the cliché of a house that never becomes reality and to propose concrete evolving schemes. Existing technologies and behavioral patterns guided the project and the engagement in bringing collective consciousness for problems requiring alternativesocial behaviors.


The first step was listening to people through workshops and a crowdsourcing platform, where individuals from different horizons expressed their opinions. Common folk and specialists spoke out and 6 archetypes of personalities where created as a base for inhabiting the house. We used the results of this collective survey as a start for the architecture project.


The plot is located in Niteroi, in front of Guanabara Bay, opposite to Rio’s downtown. It is along Oscar Niemeyer pathway, where several iconic buildings establish a cultural and touristic walk that structures the relation of the city with the sea. In the middle of an abandoned park, N.O.V.A. house is part of a larger context of urban renewal and establishes strong urban relations, transiting for completely public spaces in the park to private modules within the house itself. The objective is to create a laboratory that engages the community in interacting, assimilating and disseminating new ways of living.


The idea of mutualism permeates all the project’s decisions, generating active relations between the house and its context. The space is attended by members of the community and sportsmen that use different courts. Kinetic energy generators will create electricity through physical activities, exemplifying the positive relation between the house and the park, where both produce energy instead of consuming it.


The house was positioned to preserve local trees and also to boost relations between natural light and sun protection. This is meant to maximize benefits from passive energy solutions, such as cross ventilation. The accesses are part of a larger urban plan in a way that both the house and the park are porous to the city. A small pavilion hosting a café will also be created with an intermediary function that transit between the domestic scale of the house and the urban scale of community spaces. The structure is based on 1.20meters modules, facilitating the employment of pre-fabricated materials and an effectively flexible evolution. The assemblage of pre-fabricated elements will allow achieving construction within 4 months, with total independence on manufacturing and assembling different modules, speeding up the entire process. The elevated flooring simplifies the placement of installations and participates in the gradual transition between the public spaces of the park and the private areas of the house through generous terraces inviting people and stimulating interaction. The wood structure demonstrates the great versatility of this material that is sustainable par excellence, as it can be planted, cut and substituted infinite times. The simple system of the grid of columns and beams in glued laminated timber takes the shape of organic curves that insinuate their form in between the trees. This planted roof creates an iconic image that makes reference to Brazilian modernism and its tradition of erasing boundaries between inside and outside through free forms. Four pre-fabricated pods will be installed to host private areas that can be used by up to three dwelling families; the fourth one should host tourists. This pod will have a special lighting and projection system for creatingbespoken configurations of this temporary dwell. Everyone will share the common areas in the center of the plan and each pod will have both collective and individual accesses, guaranteeing total flexibility of its use. The central collective space is highlighted by large sliding glass doors, with a system of maximum energy efficiency that stimulates cross ventilation while open and brings light and the lush gardens within the house.


Technology was employed not only to achieve maximum energy efficiency but it is also an instrument for teaching inhabitants the importance of the evolution of their energy consumption and behavior, displayed through monitoring screens that show expenditure, food nutrition and aspects of their routine. The project allows understanding essentially dichotomist concerns where, on one hand, individuals have an intensely communal life and, on the other, demand privacy proportionally to this increased exposure. The house creates its own ecosystem and, though it is in strong symbiosis with its context, it also establishes autonomous cycles of water and energy creation and reuse where nothing is lost and everything is transformed.


A biodigester will use the residues of inhabitants and neighbors to produce energy and to create fertilizer for an allotment, generating bonds between the house dwellers and their city neighbors. A gray water reuse system irrigates the park and a special machine will create drinkable water from the humid oceanic climate. Passive energy is of the utmost importance and present in the cross ventilation, natural lightning and geothermal systems installed. Active energy production will also be a crucial characteristic of the house, as shown by the photovoltaic panels above the rooftop, vertical wind generators solar thermal panels for heating water and the kinetic energy generated from physical activities in the park.


The project of house N.O.V.A. seeks more than creating new paradigms: it aims to engender relations that transform architecture into an object of research, both in terms of sustainability and social behavior. The innovation is in the dynamism and flexibility of the project, able to adapt to constant inventions on renewable energies and to follow swift sustainable technological and social evolutions that witness that we live tomorrow now.

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