Arquitecto Nataniel Fuster
The design of this single-family residence in a suburb on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico is mainly based on the following ideas:
• The house is introverted away from the suburban street front and extroverted towards the view of the ocean on the eastern side. Thus, the structure layers from a blank wall that defines the facade to an open space defined by a roof supported on slender steel columns on the back. The house is sunken half level to further accomplish this goal and follow the existing contours.
• The house uses passive means of ventilation and illumination. To achieve this, the frontal view is, in part, characterized by ‘hot air chimneys’ that double as skylights. These elements are opened opposite to the prevailing wind direction to create a suctioning effect that continuously circulates air, while illuminating of the interior spaces.
• The house is located near the point where hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico. In order to create protection from such devastating atmospheric events, hurricane resistant canvas-like material that easily retracts like curtains were installed in front of windows and in part of the terrace. In some way when they are closed they resemble the work of the artist Christo in the manner that they completely enclose and define spaces and forms. This material also allows for light to subtly enter into the interiors. Usually hurricane shutters are an unwelcome accessory in many structures. This solution incorporates this element as an integral part of the main architectural expression.
• The house is constructed in an insulated concrete system (GCT), with a high R value, that makes it extremely efficient in terms of cooling. In the tropical environment of Puerto Rico, most concrete structures are not insulated and therefore allow the extreme heat to pass through. The plaster on the house is a structural mortar that contains the continuous insulation on the interior of the wall. The floor of the house, finished in polished exposed concrete, is the only structural element without insulation since is not needed in this climate.
• The house’s compact layout feels spacious in part because it opens up to a terrace that celebrates outdoor living and links the house to the exterior. The small infinity pool in the terrace connects the long views to the horizon and the ocean to the interior of the house. It also doubles as a cistern.