Casa Azpitia - Mala (Peru)

Rocky textures, sun-filled skies

A house in the Peruvian desert makes judicious use of materials, textures and colours to blend into the surrounding landscape
Katrin Cosseta
Rafael Freye - Arquitectura Rafael Freye
GGM Importaciones
Year of completion

«I designed this house as though it was a new level in the landscape,» explains the Peruvian architect Rafael Freyre. It’s practically impossible to separate architecture of this type from its natural surroundings, which are powerful, unforgiving and wildly compelling. With a vineyard in front (watered by the River Mala), bare mountains behind and pre-Columbian ruins all around, the house stands on a slope in the Azpitia Valley, about 20 km from the coast of Lima, in Peru. The building’s geometry, materials, textures and colours (ranging from beige to light brown, and anthracite to grey, tinged with a dash of red) reprise those of its surroundings, so that it looks almost like a newly formed but perfectly integrated feature of the natural landscape. This is largely due to the choice of materials, which harmoniously combine local products and techniques with strictly industrial items. The bricks, for example, are almost «zero miles» materials, produced by local artisans using traditional firing techniques and time-honoured methods of blending clay and sand. This gives them their characteristic nuances of colour and irregular surface texture, which make the ‘husk’ of the house blend so discreetly into the arid landscape. The bricks look like a natural continuation of the local stone used to construct the base on which the building stands. The top of the house is set against stone terracing, dotted with succulents, that slopes down towards the swimming pool. The dramatic impact of the building as a whole, with its sequence of sharply defined levels and volumes, makes a clear allusion to the majestic geometry, primitive solidity and triumphant stonework of pre-Columbian architecture. It also bears witness to how successfully the project harmonises with the spirit of the place, by coherently interpreting both the construction traditions and cultural legacy of the location.
The climate and setting dictate the building’s openings and closures. That’s why the side facing the mountains has the monolithic, introspective look of a fortress, while the side overlooking the valley opens out completely, with large windows and a terrace topped by an imposing sun-shade structure.
Built on three storeys, the house offers total floor space of 240 square metres. The basement houses a sauna, while the ground floor and first floor accommodate the reception rooms and bedrooms respectively. At entrance level, where the double-height living-room, dining-room and kitchen look out through an immense expanse of glass, the house nestles in the embrace of an extensive terrace-type patio. Protected by a wooden roof supporting a textile grid, the outdoor living space serves as a transitional area (from shade to semi-shade), which coaxes indoor life out into the open, with magnificent views of the landscape. The continuity between the indoor and outdoor space is accentuated by the vast corner windows, which stand flush with the floor and appear to break out through the corners of the outer shell. The effect is especially evocative in the staggered windows at the top of the double-height living-room. The interior design aims to bring a sense of warmth and simplicity to the habitat, by using a balanced blend of wood (for the furnishing and finishings), brick (for the walls) and ceramic (for the flooring). And ceramic provides a second, vital bridge between the indoor and outdoor environments. Both the interior floor and the terrace floor are tiled with porcelain ceramic (the Amazzonia collection, in Dragon Grey, from the Pietre Native line by Casalgrande Padana), and play their part in the gradual transition from the rough rocks that litter the landscape to the polished, stone-effect of the interior. The choice of format (45×90 cm) and the pattern of the joints contribute to a feeling that the interior is intent on breaking out and blending in with the spectacular valley outside.

Casalgrande Padana, Pietre Native, Amazzonia
porcelain stoneware
45x90 cm
Dragon Grey
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): < 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50÷60 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R10 A
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant
Certifications and awards
ISO 14001
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