Except for the kindness of the inhabitants, the experience of being at Nirvana house for the first time is the closest to a Dharma Initiative Station approach: after going through abundant nature (quite strange in Greater Buenos Aires, which Greater La Plata somehow represents), you will find oriental-style objects (firstly, inexplicably over the top), and a construction where nothing seems to be domestic (rather, it resembles a scientific facility), with lines evoking some kind of strange abrasion (later we will see that it was like that from the beginning).
Needless to say for those who knew it through the publication in 47 al fondo magazine in the mid-90s: in our Neo-Liberal decade, finding this Neo-Brutalist result (after all, the best architectural expression of Developmentalism) looked really weird. It is particularly surprising to observe that it was not and it is not very well-known: on the verge of turning 50, it is almost unknown (or undervaluated), even for many architects of La Plata, and even academics Dictionary of Architecture in Argentina).
Located on a property which used to belong to a former Argentine Consul in Japan, not only had he developed a particular landscape with Oriental influence, but he also included objects of the Japanese tradition (some of which still remained there until recently), a parceling was carried out in the 50s, where a group of La Plata artists (from Group Sí) decided to turn it into a property to enjoy the exceptional features of the land: not only its natural beauty, but also all particular landscape contributions made by its former owner. This was a great opportunity for the young artist César Paternosto and his wife, who to commissioned VK a small home-study in which they would settle with their little son.
This construction of a little more than 50 m2, is located on the border of a polygonal shaped lot (which is the result of a street bordering a winding stream), closing the lot with a diamond ground. This diamond shape seems to take Le Corbusier desire to the extreme in his Serial houses for artisans of 1924, “to create an unexpected dimension in a small house” (1). While it was kept by LC, creating a diagonal inside a square with a triangular shape landing, Krause recreates this “unexpected dimension” enlarging the diagonal and deforming the square to the limits of the living space (2). As a result, we get a diamond-shaped area dominating the front of the land towards the stream, despite the limits of the house (3). As a consequence, that single space appears from an extent the house does not own. With the kitchen and bathroom on the ends and main axis (also the narrowest), it departs from the center to be filled by life, i.e., living room, bedroom, study room, of this young family.
VK also seems to repeat in a very particular manner the scale changes used by LC in the aforementioned project. Whereas in LC it was about a scale change between a simple and double level (typical), in this case, it is the result of the roof shape: a paraboloid hyperbolic section known as “saddle”, with its lowest points (very low) on higher axis ends and the highest on the lower axis ends (4,5). The result is a space of very particular characteristics, which somehow reminds to the resulting space under the Anatomical Theatre of the University of Padova, where one clearly seems to be under an object of another order (the reason for the reference).
But the most surprising feature is construction (and the synthesis it achieves with its shape), a concrete wall system, with waving exterior, where VK makes a great technical contribution to what used to be a serious problem of construction of this type of surfaces: he develops a formwork system with overlapping boards (typical “English-type” installation of liner), which avoids waste of material and workforce, a common feature in the system used until that time to build ruled and wavy surfaces. Boards are overlapped based on the requirements of the shape proposed. This not only avoids special cuts of each board, but also enables reuse. Moreover, when boards are placed vertically, not only it gets its typical serrated shape, but also it prevents (besides the longitudinal cut of boards) cross-cutting (6). As a result of this contribution, the house has a higher popularity among engineers than architects; in fact, it was studied in that time by an Engineering Congress in Netherlands, and at the same time it was ignored by architects.
It may be affirmed that despite the ubiquitous concrete, this house evokes a deep reflection on the use of wood in architecture. This material is used in a particular manner, whether in formwork and roof structure as well as windows. Because if formwork including the aforementioned contribution, on the cover with the shape selected, where structure of the paraboloid hyperbolic enables a 17-meter light solely with pine half-inch board crossing and in this manner the cover is only 2.5 centimeters high (7), the main window (the window facing the garden with the access door) exploits acrylic flexibility possibilities (8,9). This is appreciated in an odd wavy level (for the situation) that opens the perspective when one is put on a lower axis, as that closing when one is put on the higher axis, which at the same time creates a subtle transition protecting the door and turning the set to the garden (10,11,12).
The serrated outer wall derived from formwork technique continues in triangular windows, formed by additional movements of boards (13), closed by colorful acrylic and located with different angles, and used to allow (before vegetation took over the house) the morning light to materialize with these colors in the wall internal surface. A mobile control opening system in upper sections provides ventilation in summer, keeping thermal control of the interior and at the same time, the triangular cover of the bathroom, materialized in acrylic, turns the vulgar experience of using the bathroom into a new experience contemplating the surrounding vegetation.
Beside these descriptions (which are never neutral), we should recognize that this house, a remarkable example of a means of producing architecture where synthesis of shape, construction and sense “without rethoric or eloquence” (according to the words used in those times by Neo-Brutalists) was the main search, it would eventually be completely unseasonable. Architectural culture of the 60s started to look to other areas (more speaking-type, less consistent), and started to grow a complex whereby “the mere construction” was insufficient for an architect. A thought started to vanish, and Paternosto House thereby gets to us as a true time capsule, with messages that we should not avoid.