House in Piedra Roja

House in Piedra Roja, Santiago, Chile by Riesco + Rivera Arquitectos Asociados, 2009

In the contemporary architecture of single-family houses, courtyards are not used as often as they should. Open space, when possible, is more likely found in backyards, creating private yet very open spaces shielded from neighbors by fences and/or landscaping. An internal courtyard or patio, on the other hand, is intensely private, yet still an outdoor space open to the sky and elements. As one of the oldest types of house forms, courtyards also offer the ability to regulate interior temperatures through ventilation and other means.

Architects Francisca Rivera P. and Jose Riesco U. of Riesco + Rivera Arquitectos Asociados see the appeal of these outdoor spaces in their design of the House in Piedra Roja north of Santiago, Chile. They looked to the traditional houses of their home country's central zone, which has a Mediterranean climate suited to the house typology. They view the "the intermediate spaces like a fundamental part in the daily life ... integrating the exterior to the interior" all year-round.
Through the mobility of different elements the public spaces are added and transformed into one main intermediate space that contains the familiar life. -Riesco + Rivera
The 236-square-meter (2,540-sf, enclosed area) house is a long rectangular bar in plan that is divided into three strips along its length: Facing north and the sun are the bedrooms and an outdoor corridor; on the opposite side is the service zone and a hallway; in between are the living areas (family room, living room, dining room/kitchen), each separated by the neighboring room with a courtyard. Additional outdoor spaces near the end serve the children and the carport. It's a simple plan that is activated by the different character of the patios, and to a lesser degree by the small upper floor master suite that is oriented perpendicular to the lower floor.

A close look at the floor plans reveals that the spaces alternating between interior and exterior are roughly the same size -- the dining room and the patio adjacent are almost equal in area, the north corridor is about the same area as the flanking bedrooms, etc. Therefore the total area of the house is about double the number above, meaning a large property is required for a plan of this type. More importantly it points to an even balance between living inside and outside. As people spend more and more time of their lives inside, removed from nature's effects, it's important to design residential environments where the outdoors is an integral extension of the interior. Such is the need for balconies in cities, and such is the insertion of voids into this solid house.

Photographs are by Sebastián Wilson León, courtesy Riesco + Rivera.