What is quality
in architecture? How can we measure such an open concept?
If every turn,
every detail, every sequence that gives form to an architectural experience it
is thought throughly, can we say it has quality? Can we really measure the
amount of thought that gets put into a building? I think we can. I think we are
capable of at least exploring the idea to perceive the process of thinking
behind a material solution that conforms space. When someone thinks of a
window, a threshold, a hallway or a set of stairs like it was the first time,
we can be sure that a bridge between thought and matter has been constructed.
And such an experience at least takes us near the concept of quality in design.
Tampiquito is a house tailored for a very particular person: an industrial
designer, a creative woman that works with ceramics. She asks Dear Architects
for a simple house for herself. She wants to rest, work, cook, and be with
A descending lot
suggests a solution for separate functions but also an opportunity to build a
relation between the existing public stairway and a possible order for the new
The solution: an
ascending spiral that rises from this underground level into an open space
where you rediscover the mountains. The house is built from this simple
If the basement
level feels part of the street and open to the neighborhood once you enter the
house the experience is quite different. We are struck by an uncanny
association: a stairway that runs over a kitchen, it literally steps over a
blender, some mangos and bananas. The diagonal traced by the stairs pulls our
body upstairs. We can’t wait to climb up.
The sequence of
the stairs inside the house has 3 main moments: a narrowness that emphasizes a
vertical space, a continuum diagonal space that runs through the opposite back
corners of the house, and finally, the openness of the terrace.
But it’s in the
middle of this sequence where one experiences the second striking moment of the
house: a double set of diagonal views that transforms the space of a stairway
into a much richer relation to the whole house and to the site. One diagonal
opens up towards the level we just left: the entry hall. And the second
diagonal pulls us even more towards the sky. Light and ground bounded together
through a simply but very well built relation between two vertical planes and 3
The geometry of
this two rotating planes gives place to diverse ways to play with the idea of a
mirrored space. We find the same formal principle even in the reduced enclosed
spaces. Does this extreme formalism have any sense?? Is this quality? Repetition,
relations between the parts and the whole.
Once we reach
the end of the sequence everything gets fixed again. The vastness of the
landscape and the presence of the mountain give the whole sequence all the
sense it needs.
The house really
feels without a ceiling. There is a suspended white box that occupies the east
end of the whole space where the main bedroom is. But it does not emphasize the
horizontal plane that covers the kitchen area. This illusion it’s important. A
spiral without ceiling. Without ending.
One of the
architects argues that there is a cavity or enclosed space in each of the 3
levels, a core you may say, but I personally didn’t find it. Each stillness or
encapsulated space it is pulled out and expanded towards the exterior,
searching for that open hole that connects your gaze to the sky.
You also find
that each line, each vertex has an echo, it expands to something else; a change
of color or texture, or a simple line drawn over the floor. Another gesture
that connects with the whole.
Site and body,
drawn together by a constant extension of each.
If the ability
to use of matter to create these connections is a relevant issue in terms of
quality measurement, then we can assure this little house in Tampiquito has