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A Transparent Container: House in Alta Gracia

Alta Gracia, located in central Argentina, has 40,000 inhabitants and heterogeneous origins: Jesuits settled here in the 18th century. The cattle ranch bequeathed to them by a philanthropic donor still counts among the city’s main attractions. 200 years later, Che Guevara spent eleven years of his childhood in Alta Gracia. The city boasts a museum devoted to Che’s life. All the same, the new house built by Salassa, Tissot and Castañeda in a better neighbourhood on the outskirts of town conforms to the rules of actually existing capitalism. The house, which measures 120 m², was not designed for a specific resident, but for its value on the real-estate market. Nonetheless, the architects did not simply want to follow the imperative of maximum return, but chose to focus on genuine architectural values, especially the interplay between interior and exterior space. The house stands on an east-facing slope. The ground floor is about 2.5 metres above street level, allowing a view only into the front area of the building. A low garden wall provides a modicum of privacy.  Seen from the street, the house is divided into two concrete frames arranged one behind the other. The north and south ends have been edged with brick walls clad in corrugated sheet metal. The floor plan reveals a U-shape that opens to the north; the interior spaces are arranged from south to north. The bedrooms are against the closed south wall of the house, while the glazed living room and kitchen are found in the middle part. The carport and open-air kitchen are on the north side.   The construction of the house is based on an irregular grid of concrete supports, strip foundations, a floor slab and a (non-insulated) flat concrete roof. The towerlike, white-plastered skylight shaft in the bathroom juts above the roof in order to support the natural ventilation of the wetroom. The interior spaces are characterized by timeless materials which belong to the classical canon of modernism: a dark floor of artificial stone, exposed concrete ceilings with visible board planking, white plaster and extensive glazing with metal sashes. The bathroom, which features small-scale mosaic tiling, is the only exception.

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