This jungle hideaway on the cusp of Rio de Janeiro’s Tijuca National Park was built for clients looking to retreat from the city’s urban core to enjoy books, art, and, most importantly, the beauty of the natural landscape. The home is intentionally small in scale, and its architecture provides a minimal protective “uniform” to support the clients’ preferred lifestyle and to foster deep connections with the surrounding ecology.
Rio House is effectively a steel and glass box that rises into the rainforest canopy atop two concrete piers, one of which functions as an indoor/outdoor fireplace. The home’s north end contains a single bedroom, and the south end contains open living space that frames compelling views of the jungle and Rio’s iconic Art Deco Christ the Redeemer statue.
Within this natural setting, the home is thoughtfully sited to harmonize with the wildness of its context. The design team carefully studied the positioning of the main living space throughout the process, ultimately arriving at a raised volume that is high enough to immerse the home’s occupants in the site’s juçara palm and Cariniana trees while remaining low enough to still offer sweeping views of Rio. In addition, the team ensured views of a beloved Paubrasilia tree remained. Just below the main volume sits a screened porch and outdoor kitchenette that is open to the jungle, further immersing the home in the landscape.
Throughout, local construction techniques were incorporated, including board-formed concrete site walls and interior walls of colorful plaster over terracotta, a Brazilian tradition. Native woods are incorporated into the home’s floors, ceilings, and casework, and the screened porch features a floor of stained concrete, reflective of local building traditions, that helps define the space against the green of the surrounding meadow. Material selection was based on durability and ease of maintenance, an important choice in a humid climate where corrosion is a significant concern.
The home’s elevated position avoids the worst of the region’s humidity while capturing its breezes. Manual pivot window and retractable window walls work together with a rooftop hatch to maximize natural ventilation. When those are open, a series of insect screens ensure the interior environment remains comfortable.
“This masterfully designed house brings the elegance of Mid-Century Modernism together with ‘architecture as a machine’ in a very livable balance of materials and warmth,” noted the jury. “Its 1,500 square feet seem more grand than its modest scale would suggest.”
Design Principal: Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA
Project Manager & Project Architect: Edward Lalonde, Olson Kundig
Architectural Staff: Fergus Knox, Olson Kundig
Kinetic Design: Phil Turner, Olson Kundig
General Contractor: Construtora São Bento
Project Manager & Owner’s Representative: Jose Luiz Canal
Landscape Architect: Isabel Duprat Landscape Architecture
Structural Engineer: MCE Structural Consultants
MEP Engineer: WSP
Lighting Design: O- Lighting Design
Kinetic Fabricator: 12th Avenue Iron
Kinetic Design: KB Architectural with Phil Turner, Olson Kundig
Energy Consultant: GreenWatt
This jungle hideaway on the cusp of Rio de Janeiro’s Tijuca National Park was built for clients looking to retreat from the city’s urban core to enjoy books, art, and, most importantly, the beauty of the natural landscape. The home is intentionally small in scale, and its architecture provides a minimal protective “uniform” to support the clients’ preferred lifestyle and to foster deep connections with the surrounding ecology. Rio House is effectively a steel and...
- Year 2018
- Work finished in 2018
- Status Completed works
- Type Single-family residence