The city of Punta del Este offers paradisiacal beaches, strong waves, mild climate, nightlife, colonial and contemporary architecture, navigation and green neighborhoods. In Uruguay, this destination represents an international seasonal tourist center with a large contingent that flies from Argentina and Brazil. The lounge area is furnished with a linen-covered sectional sofa, vintage armchairs and a lacquered wood cocktail table from Obra Prima.
In the tourist city of Punta del Este there is a minimalist residence, designed by the Uruguayan architecture studio Obra Prima.
For sun and sea fans, the beaches are the obvious attraction. But a Brazilian couple with three children were more drawn to the region farthest from the coast, adjacent to the Maldonado River. Here a community of private ranch-like homes has been built around a golf course developed by Fasano Punta del Este, a luxurious casual hotel with a naturalistic pool nestled in a wild rocky landscape.
People who buy land at the resort agree to hire an architect to design a house that conforms to codes intended to protect sight lines through the rolling terrain. The architectural profiles are low, limited to a single floor. The houses belong to the land, not the land to the houses. "The height limit was good because the entire structure is low and matches the landscape," says Carolina Proto, the project's architect.
Suede-upholstered mid-century side chairs surround a Premium Work dining table; the lamps are vintage and the photographs are by the Brazilian photographer Tonico Alvarez.
The Brazilian family purchased a generous parcel of land merging into the golf course behind, and hired Proto and her two Brazilian partners, Juliana Bassani and Fernanda Schuch, to create a shelter that could be used year-round. “We designed it to look more like a country house than a beach house, because it's in the country,” Proto says. The architects, whose studio, Obra Prima, is based in Punta del Este, achieved a result that is both crisp and pure, yet warm and relaxed. They mixed their messages using natural materials - stone, woods, local dry-laid bricks - with strict cubic geometries to create a country house with the sophistication of an elegant minimalist gallery.
The pool area is paved with an artistic composition of Uruguayan flagstone, a visual contrast to the stacked brick facade.
The gravel driveway, creaking under the tires, passes a eucalyptus post to a Brazilian walnut front door, set within a wall of glass and more walnut and framed by a long, wide opening in a local non-brick wall. glazed and dry laid. The entrance is encased within a planted alcove open to the sky, so that the sun carves its own contrasting lines of light and shadow, giving the façade a sculptural depth. The front door opens into a living room with a glass wall in front of it, drawing the eye to the enchanting landscape beyond. “We wanted to close the house from the street and open it in plain sight,” says Porto.
The residence is organized in a U-shape around a terrace protected from the prevailing winds by the two wings. To the right is a family room with a dining room off the kitchen, and to the left the four bedrooms, including the master, and a home theater. The spacious living room, with brick, walnut and flagstone floors trailing in from the outside, gives the two wings their names.
The stacked brick paneled bedroom wing appears to float a few inches above the back lawn.
The architects delivered the house fully furnished, adapting the furniture through the use of natural materials. “We use leather, stone and wood to try to give the house personality and soul,” says Schuch. "And we used linen for the upholstery for a rustic touch." Hand-woven wool rugs from Argentina cover radiation-heated floors paved with local flagstones. "To make the pool look naturalistic, like a lake, we lined its walls and bottom with the same flagstone," says Schuch. The architects found old farmhouse and factory furniture at local antique stores, complementing the weathered surfaces with stylish mid-century South American pieces. Custom-made designs, such as the dining table and the long credenza in the living room, retain an understated style, keeping the lines low and elegant. The furniture fits into the home with a sense of connection and appears to have been acquired over time.
The walls of the living room are lined with the same Brazilian walnut wood used for the exterior of the house. A Murano glass chandelier sits on top of a credenza designed by Obra Prima, the Eames armchair and ottoman are by Herman Miller, and the armchairs are vintage; the fireplace frame is made of steel.
The beauty of the rear facade rivals the beauty of the view: You are not sure if you are looking at the landscape or at the house. The architects keep the ceiling at a constant height, like a horizon. On the one hand, they take what would otherwise appear to be a heavy brick building and illuminate it with a glass and wood pavilion, attached to the main body of the house. On the other, they take the idea of lightness to a literal extreme, lifting the entire wing slightly off the ground, letting the grass below droop.
With just a small space under the extension, the architects endow the house with that South American sense of magical realism: This red brick wing floats above the landscape, flying. The house is both powerful and light, rooted in the landscape, but elevated by its architectural sophistication to a poetic space of its own.