The architectural firm ZITA used blackened wood and prefabricated structural elements to create a cabin in the Colombian highlands completely hand-built.
The project, called House in the Andean Moorland, is located on a green and hilly site at 3,250 meters above sea level. The area presents a “cloudy landscape” that changes the depth of view and constantly hides and reveals the peaks of the surrounding mountains.
Designed by ZITA, based in Bogota, or Zona Industrial Taller de Arquitectura, the house was built after three years of research carried out with Professor Cristina Albornoz. The project aims to demonstrate how to create an eco-friendly home “within this fragile ecosystem,” the team said.
The client is a couple with two children. Both parents are environmental economists and they bought the property because it is part of a nature reserve which they intend to maintain and expand. They use the house as a weekend retreat.
“The father was a dedicated scout in his youth and sees the place as an opportunity to teach his children about nature,” said architect Daniel Felman, founder of ZITA.
“The small part where we built the house was cut down decades ago by the previous owner, who made a living from growing potatoes,” he added.
The new housing was built entirely by hand, thus avoiding the need for heavy machinery. It was built using prefabricated elements, which reduced construction waste and time.
The 150 square meter building consists of two staggered bars which are connected by a glazed veranda. The sloping roofs are intended to interact with the mountainous terrain.
The exterior walls are covered with cypress, which has been charred to help build resistance to moisture and insect infestations.
The house is raised from the ground by concrete pilings, which minimizes disturbance to vegetation and water flow.
At the top of the pillars are a series of “porticos” each made up of a beam and two columns. Together, these gantries form an assembly that resembles a rib cage.
This cage is connected by oriented strand board (OSB) walls and roofs. The system works “like a structural diaphragm, making the skin of the house part of its structure,” the architects said.
The house has been divided into two masses to reduce its scale and offer multiple views of the landscape.
One side contains the master bedroom and bathroom, as well as all the social areas. The other side contains a pair of bedrooms and bathrooms. The walls and ceilings are covered with plywood, which helps trap heat.
In the common area, the team installed a steel screen with a manual chain hoist. When open, the room expands to the outside and offers a sweeping view of the moor.
The accommodation has a series of passive house strategies that help ensure thermal comfort – an important consideration given that temperatures at the site can fluctuate between three and 14 degrees Celsius.
Bringing sunlight into the house was a key strategy.
“The shape of the roof and the location of the wall openings allow all spaces in the house to have direct sunlight throughout the day, whether through windows or skylights,” said the ‘architect.
Parts of the house – like the cement walls under the skylights and the glazed veranda, which has stone floors – absorb solar heat and release it at night.
The house also has a “five-layer thermal protection system” for the walls, slabs and roofs. Raising the building off the ground also contributes to indoor comfort, as the floor tiles are kept dry.
The team added that the water is generated on site via vegetation capable of absorbing water, as well as “the state of perpetual cloud forest.”
Other dwellings in Colombia include a timber-framed cabin by Santiago Pradilla that features a facade with a woven screen and a 24-square-meter house designed by Alfonso Arango for his weekend retreat.
Architecture and construction : ZITA (Zona Industrial Taller de Arquitectura)
Responsible partner: Daniel feldman
Structural design: LF Canon Engineering and CPM
Hydraulic design: Fira SAS
Electrical design: Greenelec
Wood manufacturing: CPM
Laying the wood: Luis Cárdenas and Mauricio Cárdenas
Foundations: DAO Architecture
The Windows: 2G and AVA projects
Metalwork : Arte y Metal Co Ltda
Joinery : Mármol Madera y Piedra SAS