The designers transformed an abandoned steel frame and concrete slab structure into a five-level, 18,000 SF, indoor-outdoor residence and future music studio on a rain-forested mountainside overlooking the Golfo Dulce. The primary criteria for this project was to be environmentally sensitive, technologically advanced, and modernist by design.
Architect: Eric Gartner
Country: United States
With footings, frame, and slab already in place, the greatest impact on the rain-forested site had already taken place before construction began. Minor reconfiguration of the perimeter to accommodate the needs of the client and reinforcing the existing structure was required, but neither of these activities further degraded the site, and only minor re-planting was required to return the site to its natural condition. A flexible building perimeter provides a seamless flow from inside to out that completely blends the built environment with the natural setting.
Casa Torcida is designed to be entirely self-sufficient. Its energy needs are fulfilled by photovoltaic cells on the roof. This panel array, along with a solar panel system for domestic hot water, occupies 1470 SF of the top level, sharing the roof slab with a raised yoga deck and viewing platform. In the rainy season an on-site hydroelectric plant supplements the photovoltaic system, with minimal impact on the mountainside stream. A 75,000-gallon rainwater collection system provides all the potable and non-potable water needs. The state-of-the-art epoxy ceramic based roof coating assures that this water is pure and without construction related chemicals. As important, this silvery roof finish reflects the tropical sun, minimizing significant potential heat gain. Solar hot water panels provide domestic hot water, which reduces energy use by about 75%. The evacuated tube system does not require direct sunlight, instead it extracts the heat out of the air on a humid day, as the temperature rises the hot water livered to the tank from the solar collector is drawn from the top for use in the house. The pool water is also maintained through the use of Carefree Clearwater mineral ionizer, which is both irritant free and safe for the environment. All window systems and appliances and building system equipment are energy-star rated and lighting includes energy-efficient LED, fluorescent, and low-voltage lighting throughout.
By virtue of the site – on a steep slope facing magnificent view- the upper levels have broad eastern and southern exposure and are the primary living spaces. By maximizing cross ventilation and providing efficient solar shading through custom louvered panels and deep overhangs the need for air conditioning in this year-round tropical climate is eliminated. Modern technological features, architectural planning, and sensitive detailing, create an indigenous yet distinctly modern piece of architecture.