Ecuadorian architect Aquiles Jarrín redefines social space for a ‘forest house’ in Quito

Quito, Ecuador – Concrete columns, steel beams and vivid greenery define the intervention of a 112 m2 apartment in the historical centre of Ecuadorian capital Quito. Originally built in the 1970s, the building sits in the heart of a changing urban area in which many properties built for housing are being repurposed as warehouses or commercial units. Envisioned by architect Aquiles Jarrín for a family of three (and their dog), the redefined interior has been stripped bare of its porcelain-tile flooring and plastered surfaces to reveal the raw condition of the structure beneath.

Although in good condition, the space had felt standardized and impersonal; thus, a redesign focusing on materiality, nature and spatial abstraction ensued. By removing the finishes on the floor and walls that previously hid the natural condition of the building structure, an aesthetic is created that would be impossible to replicate in a new-build. The original concrete columns and waffle-slab ceiling contrast with a new dark-wood floor which highlights the brutality of the materials and ‘presents the intervention [as] an unfinished state of work or a modern ruin’, says the architect.

To facilitate the family’s desire for open and connected living areas, the architect removed the partitioning walls, forming a new spatial strategy without predefined conditions between social and private spaces. The resulting configuration enables a less defined and more ‘dynamic space that allows for constant rediscovery and appropriation of the place’. Demolishing the internal walls also emphasized the boldness of the existing columns – each a hefty 30-by-30-cm – which became a more prominent fixture in the domestic space. Aquiles Jarrín personified them as ‘concrete tree trunks’ and developed the concept of ‘a Forest House’ by adding plants and greenery to the interior, treating the forest as a shared inhabitant, rather than mere decoration.

Having created an open-plan interior, overlapping metal beams create new floor levels, becoming part of the furniture – such as overhead bookshelves and cabinets – while acting as functional spatial dividers. Curtains with magnets are used to create privacy when required but the overall theme of redefined social space is at the core of all elements of the interior intervention.

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