The project is brought to life through a joint concern for a successful real-estate development and the urban growth of our city, which is currently facing sustainability challenges.
Madreselva sits at the gateway of the bohemian district of Barranco in Lima, in an area that is currently undergoing a process of gentrification, but it still preserves a neighbourhood atmosphere. The project intends to strengthen this feeling. The design process, as well as the construction methods, were developed keeping in mind economic, social and environmental principles and aimed to find a balance between all three.
The building is composed of two volumes connected by open-air horizontal circulation that overlooks an internal common patio. Spaces are designed to generate a harmonic transition between interior and exterior, making the most of the temperate climate of the Peruvian coast. Visually permeable divisions and pleasant natural finishes, together with strategically placed seating encourage interaction among neighbours, blurring the boundary between public and private. The layout assures natural ventilation and daylight throughout the long, narrow plot.
Design choices were based on the surrounding environment and its memories. Details like decorative tiled mosaics and geometric motif railings were inspired by the traditional local architecture. The large blank wall facing the neighbouring property was taken as an opportunity to create an artistic wooden installation that resembles a characteristic colourful body of a Peruvian truck. The use of recycled materials such as woodplast (wood polymer composite) for vertical facade elements and decks together with local low-maintenance materials like the galvanized steel of parapets helps to moderate the ecological footprint of the project. The local climate allows for heating-free apartments and natural ventilation makes air conditioning unnecessary. The presence of some exposed concrete walls improves the internal comfort as they work as thermal mass, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night. An area for parking bikes motivates ecological transportation and encourages local daily activities.
Water is key when talking about sustainability, especially considering Lima is the world’s second largest desert city facing chronic water shortages. Grey water from the building is reused for watering common and private green areas and potentially for any other use that inhabitants consider suitable (e.g. cleaning). Water discharged from sinks, showers and washing machines is collected at basement level where it is first purified and then pumped to the roof level for storage. The main facade reinvents the typical balcony window box, which is normally added by the individual as an afterthought, and instead it becomes a designed feature of the project. Each balcony is a 30cm deep garden of approximately 3.7m² where the Madreselva (honeysuckle) plants take root. These ‘gardens’ are equipped with irrigation sprinklers connected to the recycled water tank. Vertical elements fixed to cantilevered slabs allow the honeysuckle plants to climb up over the entire main facade. Terraces are designed with ample planting space allowing further personalization. The green facade covers a surface area equal to 40% of the plot, which contributes significantly to the well-being of the tenants not only by screening from strong summer sun and from fine particle air pollution, but also by producing oxygen. It encourages proliferation of birds and insects and compliments the trees and plants in the central patio creating a small-scale green corridor leading from the vegetation of the street to the inside of the plot.
In a wider context, the project follows a recent global trend of vertical foresting that is redefining the urban landscape by integrating nature and urban life in a living ecosystem where plants, animals and humans cohabit (Boeri, 2014). The building is a local pioneer in sustainable residential real estate developments and aspires to act as a model for the ongoing densification in the area. It shows how, within building regulation and market pressure restrictions, the initiative of a private entity can contribute to a more sustainable environment in the belief that everyone should play their role.