Narrow house

Teresa Sarmiento and Nicolas Tovo create a narrow and bright house in Buenos Aires

The living spaces of this compact Buenos Aires home are flanked by full-height glass doors that flood the interior with daylight to make the spaces appear much larger than they are.


Casa Clara occupies a narrow plot measuring just seven meters wide by 15 meters long, in a small side street in the center of Argentina’s capital.

Teresa sarmiento and Nicolas toovo designed the three-story building as a home for their young family, with a workshop for their architecture and carpentry business in the basement.

The house’s simple construction and simple palette of wood, metal and glass were influenced by the local availability of materials and labor.

“Decisions were guided by the resources that existed,” said the owners. “Carpenters and blacksmiths were the main actors in creating a standardized construction, with metallic structure and wooden partitions.

The house is slit in the space between the perimeter walls of the buildings on either side. It was designed to use the structural properties of the existing walls, which become part of the new property.

Reinforced concrete columns embedded in the brick walls on both sides support a set of metal beams that span the space. The beams support the corrugated sheets which form the ceiling of the living room on the ground floor.

The white painted metal is topped with a concrete sub-floor with built-in underfloor heating and a final layer of recycled pine planks that form the floors of the bedrooms upstairs.

A reinforced concrete box immersed in the ground provides a dedicated workspace in the basement. A small yard in one corner functions as a skylight and provides space for a compact garden.

The ground floor has travertine marble flooring which is also warmed by underfloor heating. The open plan living space, kitchen and dining area on this level is flanked by courtyards at either end.

Full height sliding doors set in large metal frames open up the living room to these outdoor spaces, which include a large terrace for alfresco dining.

This terrace is overlooked by the bedrooms at the front of the first floor, which can be protected from the sun by folding down fabric screens.

A smaller courtyard at the opposite end of the building features the same travertine flooring as the living space, which reinforces the feeling of a seamless connection between inside and outside.

The courtyard is lined with glazing on two sides which allows daylight to reach a staircase giving access to the upper and lower floors.

Each of the outdoor spaces hosts a variety of native plants. Climbing plants cling to the walls and to a fence in front of the rooms, as well as to the old perimeter wall in which the new wooden entrance door is inserted.

The photograph is by Cristóbal Palma.


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