Casa Lavados

Casa Lavados in Villarrica, Chile by Mathias Klotz, 1995

Born in 1965 in Santiago, Chile, Mathias Klotz has built extensively in his native country, mainly in single family residences. His work illustrates a strong combination of modernity and vernacular tendencies. A balance is created through the use of local materials and construction techniques with a modernist approach to planning and looking at space. Casa Lavados is a good example of these design sensibilities, though indicative of the unique approached required when designing a house for a family.

Constructed in 1995 and sited on the slopes of the Villarrica Volcano, the Lavados house's main occupant who wanted a place to live after retirement where he could welcome his children and grandchildren without disturbing his independence. This requirement is achieved through a vertical distribution of spaces, separating the guests from the inhabitants. The design achieves this division naturally, by building against the slope. The house opens itself to the north, with an exterior walkway and pool, and is supported by a stone wall on the south. The main circulation is adjacent to the stone wall (beautifully lit from above by skylights) with a stair puncturing the wall, stressing the change in domains. Materials are stone, wood, and glass throughout the house, typical of the location.

The plan draws comparisons to Charles and Ray Eames' own house of 1949. Both are linear compositions built against a slope with the main circulation following the orientation of the house, though in the case of the Eames' house the circulation is adjacent to the open side of the house. Each house also uses the linear composition of the plan to create exterior spaces; the Eames by splitting the house into two structures, Klotz by creating a deck at the tip of the house, adjacent to the pool. Here the difference is apparent in the architect's approach to site, the former turning inside and the latter a continuation of the north side, extending to the horizon. Another difference is the Eames' exploitation of technology, an assemblage of off-the-shelf steel and glass, versus Klotz's integration of local techniques (stone and wood construction) with modern materials (curtain wall construction creating the light north wall).

The similarities and differences between Casa Lavados and the Eames House (arguably one of the greatest houses of this century) illustrate the balance that Mathias Klotz is able to achieve in his design. Approaching the spatial solution in a modernist manner, the house has a fresh and inventive quality that is reinforced by vernacular materials and techniques used in a new form.