Rio de Janeiro, where Bernardes Arquitetura is located, is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City), and the reason is immediately apparent: the expansion of the city has incorporated the mountains, rainforest, and beaches of the original landscape. Unlike many other cities with carefully planned and artificially constructed green spaces, Rio de Janeiro’s bustling urban activity enhances and contrasts with the beauty of the natural terrain.

This unique setting poses significant challenges for architects and urban planners. How can built spaces be designed to work in partnership with the natural environment? How can designs be conceptualized in the larger context of the city’s history and present community?

Bernardes Arquiteqtura
Asa House

Asa House by Bernardes Arquitetura articulates a design that addresses these challenges. The expansive, 3385-square-meter property sits on top of a hill, where its partially underground construction opens up the villa to a panoramic mountain view. Its most conspicuous feature, the wing-shaped roof (“asa” is Portuguese for wing), gives the structure a soft, organic style.

The house’s plinth was constructed to adapt to the terrain’s natural topography, flowing over the area’s characteristic rolling hills to create a “harmoniously contrasting relationship between landscape and architecture”, as described by Bernardes Arquitetura. Functional elements were fitted in between retaining walls in the house’s lower level, while semi-flat surfaces were utilized as outdoor living areas.

The passageways adapt to the area’s hilly terrain.
The plinth artfully conceals the house’s structural systems.
rio mountains
The house is situated against a stunning mountain view.

The main living areas are placed on top of the plinth, in a volume clad in wood and granite, with full-height glass walls facing the property’s gardens. These walls can slide open to be concealed completely within the building, transforming the living areas into an expansive veranda. The curve of roof’s “wing” shelters the length of this area. The owner’s suite is housed in a separate volume, which includes a terrace that presents the best views of the surrounding landscape. The garden is populated with plants that are native to the area’s rainforest, further increasing the building’s interaction with nature.

curving roof
The roof’s remarkable length shelters the living areas from the elements.
Asa House by Bernardes Arquitetura
A dramatic staircase leads up to the main volume of the house.
The main volume is made of granite and glass.
The kitchen is located at one end of the house, with a home office at the other.
The living areas face the gardens.

With inventive designs like the Asa House, Bernardes Arquitetura has demonstrated the capability of architecture to reconnect us with nature, by building spaces that are informed by organic design and an awareness of the environment.

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