Founded in 2013, Vão is an architecture and urbanism office based in São Paulo, Brazil, that works on different scales, typologies and contexts. Its projects are the result of constant architectural research, both theoretical and technical, and are often influenced by visual arts and collaborations with contemporary artists. In 2014, the practice was awarded second place in the ‘Anexo BNDES National Competition’ in Rio de Janeiro and in 2015 won the ‘Invisible Geometries International Competition’ organised by LIGA in Mexico City.
The Ownerless House nº 01 is the first of three adjoining plots that were bought by a client who was building investment houses in Avaré, a city in São Paulo. Most single family housing projects are usually shaped by the particularities of their clients but in this case, the client was an intermediary, so the brief was to create space that could be flexible enough to accommodate the most diverse of family situations.
The entire project was designed to be treated not just as one object, but as a route from the exterior to the interior with alternating open and closed spaces where natural light and reflections would change according to the time of day and the season. Viewed externally, the house presents itself as a sculpted recess into the built mass, where a leaning red wall directs the perspective from the beginning of the journey.
Set over one main floor, the space was split into two levels: the first one is for the social and functional areas, accessed directly through the entrance, while the second level, only 60cm higher, is reserved for the private areas [bedrooms and bathrooms]. The living, dining and kitchen areas were spread out around a courtyard in the centre of the home which, encased by large panels of glass, dilutes any notion of spatial confinement through a sort of visual osmosis – the ability to view all areas of the living space at once.
Both the courtyard and its extension, a lowered floor of hydraulic tiles, are covered by a perforated concrete canopy, with glass inserts which act as a series of small skylights. All the individual concrete elements of the canopy, or pergola, were precast at ground-level and later assembled in order to and save on shapes and struts. This technique was rescued from the studies of the Brazilian architect Rino Levi, who used methods like this a lot in practise.
Finally, the architects made sure there was a very distinct transition between private and public space – both of which are a big part of residential living in this area. At the back, a private grassed garden area can be accessed directly from the living spaces through an entire wall of folding glass doors. It is all very open and a clear extension of the light-dappled interiors. At the front, which provides no interior insight, a concrete bench has been built next to the sidewalk. This was intended to invite any residents to sit and observe the community and happenings of the rest of the street – incorporating old traditions and a pastime that is very common to the area.