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Casa em Cunha

Arquipélago Arquitetos

Cunha, São Paulo, Brazil

December 2021


Luís Tavares (Director), Marinho Velloso (Director)



Jimmy Speyer


Federico Cairoli


The party of the house comes from its implantation at the top of the hill of the landscape, seeking the best views of the entire oblique terrain and the Serra, in the background.

To protect the house from the cold winds, a cut of 1 meter of earth was made in order to half-buried it, up to the height of the benches of the service areas. From this cut emerged every constructive resource for the execution of the walls of the house: the earth.

The main walls of the house are made of rammed-earth, old technology revisited in a contemporary way: an authentic formwork system was proposed to develop a more efficient building site.

This constructive technique provided us with interdisciplinary encounters: physics, chemistry, geology and geography broadened our understanding of the landscape where we proposed the house.

The house has rooms facing north and a room to the northwest looking to warm their living environments the rigorous winter. There is a fireplace and a wood stove in the living room, also made of rammed-earth and, connected to the balcony, on the floor, a large circular space for a bonfire.

The roof structure is a wooden grate, composing together with the floor two large horizontal planes in wood that are distinguished from the vertical planes on earth.

It was sought that the original fact of this construction in an isolated, wild place was a maximum signal of the arrival human presence in the landscape: straight lines marking the soft topography.


The house is located in the hinterland of Cunha, in the interior of São Paulo, Brazil, in a mountainous region traditionally known for its ceramic craft culture.

Although situated on the most cosmopolitan State od Brazil, Cunha itself maintains cultural characteristics typical of the "caipira" universe in its approach to architecture and land, most of it relationated with the use of earth buildings in a rural environment.
From the center city of Cunha, the land is about 40 minutes by car on hard-to-access roads. The landscape found originally was really untouched and special.

Due to this context, we found necessary to use site sources to building. Also because of this isolation, in an open field, the build had to deal with cold winds of the region.

Rammed earth was a decision that appeared at the beginning to deal with the fact that we were really isolated without many options to transport materials to the land, but also because it has a good thermal capacity, so it solves two problems and made really sense to use it.

To bring this vernacular technic contemporary, we found that rammed earth is nowadays latent on countryside buildings. Its has a cultural dimension that must be considered and valorized.

The project aims to strike a balance by adopting a sustainable approach, which involves utilizing and transforming local resources into construction materials, while also incorporating cultural techniques and region-specific strategies into the design thinking process.


The house provided a haptic connection with real materials, nature and regional culture.

By reinterpreting latent construction techniques from the region, the building engaged a series of artisans from Cunha, bringing them into dialogue in the development of design solutions, thus blurring the boundaries between architecture and artisanal production methods.

The choice of rammed earth as the main material for the walls was the most sustainable solution considering the impossibility of bringing conventional construction elements. This choice aligns with the need for better thermal capacity of the building. The rammed earth walls, with a thickness of 35cm, have a thermal conductivity of 0.75W/mK. Additionally, the semi-buried construction ensures lower thermal loss due to less exposure. The south facade, exposed to winds, is protected by a rammed earth wall. On the north side, we introduced glass to allow solar radiation entry and increase comfort in cold temperatures.

Regarding sustainability, much debate has focused on the parameters of energy efficiency in projects. However, there has been little discussion about the availability of construction resources in a broader sense. We believe this is an innovative aspect of the current project since it utilizes as its main material a resource available on-site, namely the earth itself, extracted and requalified as a viable construction resource. From this principle perspective, the cycle closes, as the rammed earth technique itself offers excellent thermal performance, a requirement for this construction on a plot of land in the mountains of Cunha, São Paulo.

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