Underground Architecture

Commissioned for a spec house, Chile’s Felipe Assadi and Francisca Pulido deliver a subversive design.

When real estate developer La Reserva invited a group of well-known Chilean architects to design a 1,507-square-foot house that could be easily replicated, husband-and-wife team Felipe Assadi and Francisca Pulido took the job but rejected the premise. Disregarding the commercial requirement, they conceived the project “as a mockery” of the very idea that a house could be both beautiful and infinitely reproducible. “We proposed a unique living space, unrepeatable and lacking the very essence of a catalog product—an identifiable facade,” Assadi explains.

Located on the side of a hill in a wealthy suburb of Sant­iago, Chile, Assadi & Pulido Architects’ house audaciously makes the roof the main facade, hiding the liv­ing spaces on a single floor beneath the pronounced slope. Rather than leveling the site to make way for a more traditional design, the architects let the existing morphology define the project. Since the house is almost half buried, its main structural element is a monolithic concrete-block wall, which contrasts nicely with a floor-to-ceiling glass exposure that overlooks the Chicureo Valley and allows sunlight to bathe all of the rooms. Assadi and Pulido also found another way to bring precious natural light into the hillside residence: they placed round louver windows in the rooftop patio. During the day the windows bring in light, and at night they become elegant “peepholes” that reveal the activities of the occupants, transforming the roof into a dynamic landscape.

“It is quite difficult to design a house without a client,” Pulido says. “It’s like playing in no-man’s-land. We even had to deal with that in terms of the restrictions of the building area.” Ironically, it was ultimately interest from a buyer, not La Reserva, that ensured that the project was built. Designing for no one and with a brief they didn’t like, Pulido says, worked to their advantage. “These unat­tainable variables became an act of rebelliousness that enriched our proposal.”

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