words Douglas Murphy
image Bak Arquitectos
The Franz House is a domestic building by Buenos Aires based BAK Arquitectos, located in Mar Azul, a small beach resort which serves as a retreat from the Argentine capital. It sits on an earthy, sloping site in a grove of pine trees, and is executed in a tight brutalist method. One material dominates the building: timber-shuttered concrete, which is formed into a series of simple planes that delineate the spaces within, as well as the stairs and many of the fittings inside. Offsetting this concrete is glass and a warm timber for decking and various other fixtures.
The setting is strongly felt in the building – the landscape has hardly been altered, with BAK taking advantage of the slope to allow access to the ground from nearly all rooms. The bare earth is allowed to reach right up to the building, providing a contrast with the sombre concrete surfaces. The forest has been treated very deferentially; one of the terraces has been designed with holes that accommodate existing trees on the site. Overall it’s a strongly mimetic architecture which, despite its formal abstraction, seems entirely at place in its suroundings.
The Franz House is actually one of a series of at least ten houses that BAK has been building in Mar Azul, each a variation on a similar method. Seen together they feel like a throwback to the early modernist experiments of the 20th century that defined the architectural language of the next 100 years, expressing their functional programmes in a near abstract arrangement of surfaces in space. “This is certainly very gratifying for us but in turn raises a series of questions that become food for thought in each new order,” BAK explains, discussing its repeated experiments. “Is it valid to seek a new solution with no other justification than to try something different?”