Fortunata House | Caxias Do Sul, Brazil | 2020
[Luciano Lerner Basso]

FORTUNATA, adj. fem. from the Italian language: one that has been touched by luck. A house built around a tree, where reason is the main instrument in the search for the spirit of living.

Located in the extreme south of Brazil, Fortunata house is a project that highlights the essential activities of Architecture: the careful reading of the environmental conditions; the precise determination of the construction processes; the correct resolution of the program of demands; and the harmony of the built forms.

Built in a traditional, open neighborhood, the house was implanted around a huge Araucaria Angustifolia tree. The access from the sidewalk to the entrance of the house is through a winding path of soil and gravel, the street enters the courtyard and extends to the entrance door. There are no walls, only a diaphanous metallic screen. There is the intention that the floor of the house is the same as the floor of the city; the desire to create urban spaces without barriers, to visually integrate the public and the private.

Its insertion in the landscape is a direct response to the constraints of the place. Aiming at a minimum intervention in the topography, the main volume is supported by a piloti that delicately touches the ground and adapts to the natural conformation of the terrain. All the material resulting from the excavation of the foundations was used; the earth was used as an embankment for the vehicle maneuvering area; the stones were used in the construction of the retaining walls and landscaping elements. The native vegetation was preserved almost in its entirety. If it were possible for a huge crane to lift the house and land it somewhere else, the original terrain would remain practically intact, with no traces of the construction.

Designed for a young couple, Fortunata’s programmatic division is simple: on the lower level, under the pilotis, there is a carport; entering the house are the vestibule and the laundry room. On the upper level, from the geometric union of four rectangles, a structurally open plan was designed, where the separation between the functions of living, working, and sleeping is given by the spatial condition generated by the server nucleus and by the use of light elements. There are no dead-end corridors or closed spaces for socializing. Circulation is a continuous movement that permeates flexible and multifunctional environments. This condition allows the house to assume different configurations and to follow the owners’ life changes.

Completing the program, three verandas built using the wood used in the concrete formwork connect the house to the back patio; they expand the living room towards the landscape. Without curtains or visual barriers between inside and outside, the dweller has permanent contact with nature. At the same time he lives in the house, he also lives in the forest.

The exposed concrete molded-in loco is used as the total material. It is in the structure, in the closings, in the stair steps, and even in the fixed furniture. A material that ages with the same beauty as nature, resists well to bad weather, and requires little maintenance, even in the humidity of the forest. Besides, it is a very common system in the region, with plenty of skilled labor and construction costs lower than other systems with the same virtues. A structure that shows itself raw and reveals a construction process that, at the same time is rigorous and precise, also shows the perfect imperfections of handmade work. A work where matter and technique are indivisible.

We designed a silent architecture that maintains a clear dialogue with nature, either through its opaque walls that in the harsh southern winter blends in with the fog, or by the way the forest is reflected in its glass on blue sky days. Its plastic quality lies in the relationships between planes, voids, lights, landscape, and textures. A project that expands the field of architecture itself and brings reflections on the relationships between house and city, between man and nature.

In dealing with the sustainable aspects, besides the minimal intervention in the existing vegetation and topography, we underline the use of reforested wood in the concrete formwork; re-use of this wood for the construction of the verandas; cross ventilation in all environments of continuous use; high-performance frames with thermal cutting; double glazing; thermal insulation with EPS in the floor and roof slabs; treatment of the exposed concrete with solvent-free products; heating system powered by ecological fuel; use of rainwater for irrigation; natural lighting in all rooms, including the use of skylights; artificial lighting made entirely with low consumption light bulbs, including automation for controlling external lighting. Text description by the architects.

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Photography by: Manuel Sá + Roberta Gewehr