10-km north of San José, in central Costa Rica, local architect Carazo Arquitectura responded to a brief from a family of five who envisioned their dream house to be ‘like an air ship’. Casa Murray Music is not a simple house in which its occupants simply exist. Instead, it is a place of exploration and discovery. From the outside, the project looks different from every angle. Inside, the spaces act differently than the archetypal expectation would usually dictate.

Basking in the simplicity of its materiality, the project’s unique selling point is the flexibility. The house is experienced as a combination of open areas – rather than a collection of functional rooms – which promotes a playful experimentation that breaks the paradigm of the conventional use of spaces. Architects Rodrigo Carazo and Jonatan Luna spoke to Mark about how the project developed and the experience it offers its users.

How did you approach the design of Casa Murray Music?
We defined the whole living experience as a way to explore, grow, learn, create and reinterpret; it constantly evolves. There are five characters living in – and interacting with – the house every day. Since three of them are minors, so we built different scenarios where they could express themselves, play and create adventures. Different activities can potentially happen anywhere in the house. Experimentation is a tool that can enhance the experience of creating a programme with non-specific uses.

For example, a room that is usually a sanctuary for resting and sleeping usually has a character of peace, tranquillity and silence. However, by reinterpreting the rooms for the benefit of the inhabitants, the atmosphere changes in meaning. Thus, a room is not just a bedroom but also a playroom, a study area, a storage room or even a doorway to another room.

How did the topography of the site affect the architectural design?
The site was a challenge but, at the same time, an opportunity. The project was designed without changing the original landscape. Instead, we adapted the geometry to the steep slopes and segmented the house into two levels and the natural elements of the site became accomplices of the design. The lower floor is immersed in the ground within a wooded area that promotes privacy, generates a silence-threshold and gains climatic comfort from the earth and the trees. This makes it the ideal place for the bedrooms. The upper level, located on higher land, has a wide view to the southwest of the central valley and is not covered by trees. This allows a greater amount of natural light to enter into the social core.

How did you approach the unusual shape of the building volume?
A hierarchy was used, with each space responding to a specific activity that concerned the inside of each room. There are two main paths that hold equal importance: one of them frames the main access that leads to the social core and is designed for visitors; the other path is designed as a corridor that connects different areas. The stairs and the concrete slide connect the two elements together.

What inspired the varied material palette?
The materiality is based on respect for the purity of materials. The architecture expresses the truth of the materials – such as exposed concrete, metal, glass and timber. These materials age gracefully over a long period of time, which was an important aspect to consider, since Costa Rica has a six-month rain season and we wanted the design to be low-maintenance. Although the chosen materials are completely different from one another, we used all of them to create different scenarios and establish a rhythm between the parts of the house.

Plan – Level 0

Plan – Level -1

Long Section

Cross Section