The Palicourea House is located in a rural area in the village of São Jorge, municipality of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, directly on a small hill in front of São Miguel river valley, close to the limits of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, inserted in the country’s second-largest biome, the Cerrado, which covers more than 772,000 square miles, nearly a quarter of Brazil. The Cerrado is the world’s most biodiverse tropical savanna. The Palicourea House consists of two buildings: a house and a small studio. One of the family members is a landscape architect who works with native species from the cerrado and with the preservation and recovery of species from the region’s biome. The studio will be her office and will host artistic and educational activities. The project is also an experiment on a way to inhabit the region, considering the specificities of the environment, its context, and the possibilities of a sustainable coexistence.
Each of the buildings is located on one side of the hill, separated from its highest point and 120 meters apart. The buildings were installed at different levels and adapted to the existing topography, slightly suspended from the ground to prevent the entry of small wild animals, minimize land movement, and preserve as much of the existing trees and herbaceous vegetation as possible. A system of stairs and ramps connect the house’s internal and external levels. In the studio, the stairs that connect the internal and external levels are transformed into a grandstand for various presentations and open-air cinema.
The structural system of both buildings is composed of two parts that were built independently: the exposed concrete structure and solid brick walls “core” and the glued laminated wood (Glulam) roof. The aim was to combine local labor and traditional building materials with a large lightweight structure made from reforestation wood, remotely prefabricated, and assembled on site. The concrete and brick core follow a structural grid that allows for variations in internal dimensions for free distribution of the program and adds some parts of fixed furniture to its own structure (such as shelves, grandstand and cabinets in the studio and kitchen, exterior stove, and benches in the house). On the other hand, the wooden roof follows a regular structural pattern. The two parts of each building are structurally independent so that it was not necessary to obtain a high level of precision for the perfect “fit” between them. This made it possible to release the construction work in two parallel work fronts.
The bedroom, home office and bathroom areas in both buildings were treated as an “extended stay area” and were covered with solid concrete slabs that delimit an “air mattress” between them and the wooden roof. This empty area is also an open and naturally ventilated space that promotes greater thermal comfort for the internal spaces right below them and provides space for the distribution of most installations and equipment on the top of it, with easy access. Unlike the bedrooms and adjoining areas, the social living spaces, such as the living room of the house and the studio lounge, are equipped with large, glazed areas, sliding window frames, bug screens and wooden sliding louvers that allow for constant natural ventilation and light. Therefore, these spaces are also the only internal rooms in the buildings where the roof and the core “touch” each other through the large, fixed glass panels. At these points, the wooden roof is also the roof of the indoor environment.
The buildings are equipped with photovoltaic energy systems: it´s a hybrid “E.S.S.” system, which means that it works as an “off grid” system that is also connected to the supply network. This way, when the batteries are charged and when the usage loads are supplied, it “returns” the excess energy to the network.
The roofs of the buildings have a single slope that follow the general topography of each side of the hill. They are interrupted by lines of gutters to collect rainwater. This water is filtered and stored in small tanks at the lowest points of the lot to be periodically pumped by pumps powered by photovoltaic energy to a central reservoir located at the highest point of the lot with the storage capacity of 40.000 liters of rainwater. The Cerrado is limited to two dominant seasons throughout the year, wet and dry. Therefore, the idea is to use rainwater minimize the use of water from the public system throughout the year, mainly during the dry season. Sewage from sanitary basins and kitchen sinks is processed and treated in underground eco-stubs before passing to the soil infiltration tanks.
The Glulam roofs do not directly touch the concrete and masonry core of buildings. For this reason, it was essential that the stability of the wooden structure was autonomously guaranteed. Thus, the roof rests on “triangular bases” that promote the stability of the structure in both directions. Each of the triangular foundation blocks, where the pillars and their tie-rods are anchored, also receive rainwater from the gutters. These blocks have different levels of implantation adapted to the natural stretches of the topography where the studio and the house were built. Thus, each of the 16 wooden pillars of the two buildings (10 pillars in the house and 6 pillars in the studio) have all different lengths.