LINARES – It is a prerequisite for an architect to consider aesthetics and structural integrity. Less often considered, perhaps, is phenomenology and tapping into the attachment of place. From his central Chile studio, architect Felipe Alarcón pondered this point for a residential commission in his home town.
‘The client asked me to extend their house to a second level,’ Alarcón begins. ‘A few years ago, the family suffered the death of a child in an accident. They requested that the room was kept the same and I came to the conclusion that to maintain this state of things would be detrimental to the possibility of advancing their mourning, so I proposed that the extension of Casa Lautaro should give a new air to the house and that there is another way of ‘remembering’; something less concrete than keeping the room as it was. With this came the idea of incorporating an element into the house that is always present but often overlooked: the sky.’
It is certainly clear from the exterior that a dramatic change has taken place. Every single roof tile from the original structure is reused as the masonry in the new wall that stands self-supported in front of the house. The new, tilted roof resembles a large slab that has been dropped at an angle on top of a house that it didn’t quite fit. It is angled enough that it is obvious but not so much that it looks entirely out of place.
In fact, it seems surprisingly reasonable. A truss is used to connect both sides of the structure. However, this component is flipped upside-down to increase the entry of indirect light from the south window, which runs the full length of the building. The inverted shape controls the physical attributes of the interior space. While the public area is rather flat, the mezzanine level opens up towards the light of the sky.
With this project, the architect has embraced the untouchable – the non-visual – and accessed a deeper emotional sense within the user by prioritising the ‘sense of place’. ‘This renovation meant more than just changing the appearance of the house. It represents the possibility of having a more bearable daily life,’ he concludes. ‘In this way, the reform explores the user’s connection with the built environment; the meaningful link between materials and the attachment to memories.’
Plan – Ground floor; first floor