Almada Beach House Expansion and new Chalets
The site is located on a hill measuring approximately 18,000 square metres and densely covered in Atlantic rainforest, lying between the Almada and Ubatumirim beaches, in the state of São Paulo. The client's objective was to expand and adapt the existing, 50-square metre, wooden house built using a prefabricated system in order to gain more space and comfort, as well as build new chalets to house guests or for holiday rentals. The site conditions presented geographical, geological and environmental challenges in addition to its remote and hard to reach location.
The client decided to renovate the existing house instead of demolishing it, both because it was the more sustainable option, as well as to interweave the memories of the place together with the new intervention. The overarching guideline for both the expansion and new builds is a desire for integration with nature with the minimum of interference, hence the choice of limiting the foundations as much as possible and building elevated decks, which, in addition to reducing the need for clearing ground areas, grants lightness to the structures. The group of buildings are characterised by isolation, a place where peace and privacy are encouraged over indiscriminate community living. The house and chalets are located such that the distances from each other enable acoustic, visual and functional privacy. However, elements such as decks with stunning views of the sea are used to integrate the whole and allow for interaction between the users.
The design concept used for the house was to maintain the existing structure as an independent body without drastically modifying its appearance, keeping the original materials and creating new openings that require no additional support structures. This would comprise the social and services part of the house, including the living room, kitchen and laundry area. The expansion consists of two new, separate blocks; the first containing a terrace, intimate space and bathrooms connecting to the social area through a semi-open walkway, while the second contains a garage with space for two vehicles, a storage space area a service area on the ground floor, with a studio-office above. The structures are located to maximise the surrounding views in an open "collar" extending out into the site, as well as ensuring thermal comfort from the sun's rays. There is a deck above the terrace that can be accessed through an open air staircase. With the exception of the terrace and bathrooms, which have slab roof covers, and the walkway, which employs Alwitra, the other volumes feature roof tiles. The brief called for: a living room, kitchen, laundry area, veranda, swimming pool, sauna, 3 en suite bedrooms, a bathroom, terrace, elevated deck, garage with space for two vehicles, a storage area/bedroom with an en suite bathroom, a studio with an en suite toilet, an external bonfire area with stone benches, a clay oven for baking bread, pizzas, etc., an open air deck with a hot tub or Jacuzzi.
The chalets are open space longitudinal volumes in wood and glass that offer views from everywhere within and the option of isolating the sleeping area with mobile wooden panels. The compact units were designed with simplicity in mind, providing comfort with few elements. The layout of the chalets follows the site's topography, wherein they are accommodated to grant views from the front and sides. A modular network was conceived that can be adjusted according to the locations, while also integrating the onsite elements, such as large rocks and trees, etc. The brief called for: a single, flexible space with an open kitchen, living room and bedroom; a bathroom with a separate area for a hot tub/Jacuzzi and views of the landscape; an external laundry area; and an external deck.
Entrance to the site is through a gate controlled by an intercom to the caretaker's house and the main house, with a security cabin for possible future use. The caretaker's house is located near the gate and will have an intercom to the main house and all the chalets. The main house will also be able to communicate with all the chalets. A parking area for users of the chalets will be situated next to the road that leads from the gate to the buildings. The chalets are accessed via short trails through the rainforest.
A concrete structure will be used for the foundations and supports for the elevated decks, with a self-sustaining wood frame above the decks, while walls and finishes are in wood and feature soundproofing and insulation. Some elements will be built in brick, such as the internal terrace, bathrooms and services/garage block. The cover comprises a rectangular "box", with a metallic moulding around the sides containing the wooden framework, ceiling, insulation layer, OSB and either Alwitra or metallic polyurethane sandwich tiles for waterproofing. There is a U-profile beam between the roof "box" and the walls creating a gap between them and the tiles, and giving the impression that the roof is floating.
In general, the decision was to have transparent façades to allow for lots of light, involving French and sliding doors, new openings and fixed, translucent textiles. The fronts of the chalets use wooden frames and glass, with the ability to open the majority of their surface, merging the internal and external spaces. In this case, mobile panels with horizontal, adjustable wooden shades overlap the mobile glass panels, allowing for privacy and protection from the sun.
The elevated decks in the project are one of the concept's sustainability premises, as it represents a minimum of intervention to the land.
The construction system chosen focuses on sustainable and fast dry construction and uses only certified wood. The result is a cleaner, more versatile building site where the construction work can be completed faster. Solar heating panels and a system to reuse captured rainwater are also included. From the social sustainability perspective, it is hoped that the cash influx from renting out the chalets can make its way back into the local community through the employment of local services, such as maintenance, cleaning, leisure, etc.