A City Code regulation that requires the use of load-bearing brick party walls up to twelve meters high is the starting point of a research on bricks as basic structural and constructive units.
Located in a medium density neighborhood, the 3-story urban house prioritizes a compact footprint that allows for a bigger backyard. The decision of leaving the bricks exposed aims to establish a contextual relationship with the city´s traditional construction methods, to take advantage of the expertise of local labor in artisan brick fabrication and layering, and to acknowledge the maintenance and aging of the building over time. Five load-bearing masonry walls are the main structural elements that define an almost square plan divided in two bays where the different spaces of the house are distributed: kitchen, dining and living areas in the ground floor; bedrooms in the first floor; and a studio, laundry and terrace in the second floor. Parallel to the façade, a concrete stair connects the three levels.
All walls are monolithic and don’t contain any additional layer for thermal or water proof insulation. The energy and comfort demands are met thanks to their mass and the use of a water-proof mortar. Ceilings and floors are exposed concrete; not a single surface in the house is rendered.
A series of studies of different bonds and their possibilities of perforation in relation to their structural behavior resulted in the adoption of a Crossed Bond for every façade and interior wall.
The north façade is built using the minimum amount of matter with which the wall maintains its structural capacity. As a result, it can be thoroughly perforated to define the relationship between interior and exterior, creating a bearing screen that filters light and views while structural loads travel diagonally through it. The rest of the facades repeat the same motif as a bass-relief in order to save unneeded material and to create a continuous lattice pattern that unifies the volume. Where needed, apertures of different sizes are located to create doors and windows within the diagonal logic of fabric. Above the bigger apertures, thin steel rebars embedded in the joints derive the loads above them. In occasions, tempered glass panes are set directly into the walls without visible frame.
Both for the design phase and the production of construction documents, the brick bond (understood as a logical system) was digitally modeled as an algorithm that recreated its laws and allowed for modifications in their parameters to make the final adjustment between the abstract diagram of the bond, the actual dimensions of the site, the imperfect hand-crafted bricks, and the thickness of the mortar joint.
Brick is the only minimal construction module, that extensively repeats itself in different configurations. Rather than its intrinsic characteristics, it is its relative position (or absence) in the whole what defines its properties; to become structural support, enclosure, aperture, finishing and inherent decoration.
- Fritz Höger Award. Special Mention, 2017. Berlin, Germany
- Selected Work- II Internacional Argentine Architecture Biennale (BIAAR), 2016
- Nominated. Mies Crown Hall Award for Emerging Architecture 2016. IIT, Chicago, USA
- First Prize. National Award for Technological Innovation in Architecture, 2015. SCA/MINCYT, Argentina
- Mention. National Award for Built Architecture, 2015. FADEA, Argentina
- Finalist. Brick Awards. Best International Project, 2015. BDA. London, UK
- First Prize. Provincial Award for Built Architecturea, 2015. CAPSF/FADEA, Argentina
Diego Arraigada, Pablo Gamba, Lucia Landucci, María José Tasada, Delfina Castagnino, Agustina Méndez, María Emilia Bertero, Agustín Negri.