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A Forest Hideaway Proves Concrete And Cozy Can Go Together

The AV house makes an excellent case for concrete at the domestic scale.

  • <p>Concrete gets a bad rap for being "cold" or "harsh." The AV house, a neo-Brutalist villa in the woods of Mar Azul, Argentina, proves the stereotypes wrong.</p>
  • <p>Designed by Buenos Aires-based BAK Arquitectos, the vacation home is one of 10+ houses that the firm has built in Mar Azul.</p>
  • <p>Each of the houses are a variation on the same method. They all make extensive use, both inside and out, of timber-shuttered concrete.</p>
  • <p>The AV house straddles a gently sloping hill in Mar Azul’s small forest. The architects were careful to preserve the natural conditions of the site and allow the forest floor to rub up against the concrete fame.</p>
  • <p>The design of the house consists of five interconnected boxes, creating a series of interior spaces that bleed into the next.</p>
  • <p>Large panes of glass offer a counterpoint to the ubiquity of the concrete walls. The architects sandwich the two bedrooms in glass, knowingly exposing them to the woods outside.</p>
  • <p>By the time you reach the glass-enclosed patio at the foot of the house, the glass has nearly liquidated the concrete.</p>
  • <p>See: not "cold" or "dreary," but "warm" and "inviting."</p>
  • <p>The AV House significantly improves on the average summer retreat.</p>
  • 01 /09
    | The AV House

    Concrete gets a bad rap for being "cold" or "harsh." The AV house, a neo-Brutalist villa in the woods of Mar Azul, Argentina, proves the stereotypes wrong.

  • 02 /09

    Designed by Buenos Aires-based BAK Arquitectos, the vacation home is one of 10+ houses that the firm has built in Mar Azul.

  • 03 /09

    Each of the houses are a variation on the same method. They all make extensive use, both inside and out, of timber-shuttered concrete.

  • 04 /09

    The AV house straddles a gently sloping hill in Mar Azul’s small forest. The architects were careful to preserve the natural conditions of the site and allow the forest floor to rub up against the concrete fame.

  • 05 /09

    The design of the house consists of five interconnected boxes, creating a series of interior spaces that bleed into the next.

  • 06 /09

    Large panes of glass offer a counterpoint to the ubiquity of the concrete walls. The architects sandwich the two bedrooms in glass, knowingly exposing them to the woods outside.

  • 07 /09

    By the time you reach the glass-enclosed patio at the foot of the house, the glass has nearly liquidated the concrete.

  • 08 /09

    See: not "cold" or "dreary," but "warm" and "inviting."

  • 09 /09

    The AV House significantly improves on the average summer retreat.

A common, if facile, critique of Brutalism is that it is widely unsuited to domestic application. A home, after all, is not a city hall (Brutalism was most extensively rendered in the service of civic structures), and it need not embody the lofty ideas of an entire populace. Nor do the big, brash, and top-heavy concrete forms of sprawling government or housing complexes transfer to the single family home all that well. Surely, few would characterize unfinished, "textured" concrete surfaces as comfy.

But BAK Arquitectos have dismantled this argument time and time again. The now disbanded Buenos Aires-based firm amassed a portfolio of dozens of concrete homes, many of which are concentrated in Mar Azul, a small coastal town outside the capital and home to fewer than a thousand year-round residents. It’s here, strangely enough, that BAK staked its reputation as purveyors of sumptuous Brutalist villas.

The AV House is just one of the 14 homes the architects built in the area in the last decade, all of which bear the same rigorous Brutalist method. If there is an architectural progression to be evinced from the collection of houses, the AV House would perhaps be its culmination.

Set among a forest of pine trees, the house straddles a sloping site which the architects worked hard to disturb as little as possible. The structure, a linear bar of five interconnected cubic volumes, staggers to accommodate the incline, with each room poised gently above the forest floor. The proximity of the rectilinear walls and the pine-needle-strewn earth helps to soften the architecture’s abstract forms, and the color and pattern of the timber-shuttered concrete echoes the bark of the surrounding pines. The pair of projecting wood terraces are notched with holes that cradle lone trees, while their neighbors nuzzle right up against the walls of the house. As the architects explain in a statement, the architecture has a "strong and mimetic presence, so [that] the work is in harmony with the landscape."

Inside, the concrete is left unadorned save for the odd art print, and is offset only by a few kitchen appliances and pieces of nondescript furniture. The simple forms nestle large voids filled in with wide panes of glass, which admit "long hours of natural light and [allow] full integration with the scenery." The living areas all look directly onto the landscape through the concrete-framed portals; an-all glass sunroom that anchors the house on one end lightens the mass of the whole. And in a provocative gesture, the two bedrooms are bounded on either side by full-height windows, fully exposed to the forest outside.