Today we're taking a look at the stunning Casa Folha, designed by Mareines and Palatano Architects and located in Angra dos Reis, one hour south of Rio de Janeiro. The project was inspired by Brazil's indigenous Indian architecture, and designed to both play off and give relief from the hot and humid climate where it stands. The result is a breathtaking home, whose 'leaf'-shaped canopy roof is a magnificent feat of design and engineering, which is also profoundly practical, acting as it does to protect and shade all the indoor spaces of the house, as well as the in-between, open ones, which are in many ways the most important spaces in this home. Let's take a tour of this fabulous tropical oasis!
One of the design missions of this house was to create a structure that would bring man and nature together, in an harmonious interaction. There are no corridors in the home, meaning trips from room to room involve stepping outside before going inside, or travelling from one outdoor space to another. Those rooms that are fully 'indoor' have glazed sliding doors which, once again, help to create a relationship between indoor and outdoor when they're fully pushed back.
Seen from above, both the gorgeous leaf-shaped roof and the guiding principles of this house's design can be fully appreciated. The house looks like a tropical flower in full bloom, its petals thrown open to the sun. Each petal, or leaf, houses either an open, semi-outdoor space, or a mix of outdoor and indoor rooms on two different levels. The architects call these canopied outdoor spaces 'in-between spaces', and they represent the essence of the design. They are the social areas—living room, dining area, and relaxation spaces—and they're where the the owner of the house and his guests spend most of their time.
The very generous heights given to these 'in-between' spaces, which run from 3 to 9 metres, allow the South-East trade winds from the sea to pass smoothly through the building. These trade winds offer natural ventilation and passive cooling to both the enclosed and the open spaces. Mareines and Palatano describe this as 'low-tech eco-efficiency', and while it may be 'low-tech', it's certainly an intelligent and efficient way to provide air and cooling to this tropical home.
From this angle, the complexity and beauty of the roof structure is astounding. The roof is made of laminated eucalyptus, a wood that holds up to the creation of large single spans (20 metres is the biggest here). The roof is tiled in wood also, from the pinus taeda, or loblolly pine. Rainwater is collected via the central steel column for reuse in gardening and for flushing toilets. All of the surface finishes in the house, except for glass and pre-oxidised copper, are wholly natural: grey stone tiles, bamboo meshes, local wood, earth flooring and wood reclaimed from old electricity poles. The use of all-natural materials, along with the transparency of the glass, the harmony of the green, oxidised copper with the prevailing green of the natural landscape, and the organic design of the house, combine to create the sense that the structure is at one with the site, in perfect harmony and sympathy with the tropical landscape in which it stands.
On the ground floor, the relationship with the landscape is seamless. The curved swimming pool winds around the house; seen from the dining room, it creates an almost unbroken link with the sea beyond. Where the pool passes below the formal dining room, it turns into a pond filled with aquatic plants and fishes.