On the Peruvian coast about an hour southof Lima is a beach famous for its surfing. Architect Javier Artadi has built his most recent house, Las Palmeras, on this jagged stretch of coastline in a village called Cerro Azul, so named for the blue rock of the hills. (The area’s huge waves are mentioned in the Beach Boys’ song Surfin’ Safari.)
A few years ago, Artadi, who is a professor of architectural design at the Peruvian University for Applied Sciences and heads Artadi Arquitectos, designed a cubic white beach house in nearby Las Arenas, which was a finalist in the 2004 Iberoamerican Biennial of Architecture. Responding to the bareness of the landscape, and its arid climate, Artadi conjures the vernacular architecture of other dry coasts, such as in Greece or Morocco, and focuses it into what he calls “abstract pure forms”.
The Las Palmeras house consists of three rectangular levels, the first and third mostly roofless. The top floor was conceived as the social area, with a dining room, terrace and swimming pool all facing an ocean framed by right angles. Artadi explains that he wanted the top level to “appear to float” over the other levels of the house, which is achieved through its thin zigzag of support on one side, and large apertures in the walls to allow for a full sweep of light. He adds that he wanted the most minimal forms on this level to “concentrate the sightseeing force”.
Artadi has incorporated a strong juxtaposition of materials (wood, mottled stacked stone walls, a neat gridded grass entry), yet the house acts primarily as a handsome viewing platform, an excuse to gape at the vast empty landscape. And with such views, why not?