Box House / Alan Chu & Cristiano Kato


© Djan Chu

Architects: Alan Chu & Cristiano Kato
Location: Ilhabela, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Project year: 2008
Site area: 8,000 sqm
Constructed area: 36 sqm
Photographs: Djan Chu

It is a small construction with an equally simple program:

A caretaker’s house of a property on an island on the North coast of the State of São Paulo, Brazil.

The site, at 100 meters above sea level, next to two enormous rocks, already had the old caretaker’s house, one-story house with stone walls and clay roof tiles.

Original House


The new building has 2 floors, a white suspended box, where the bedroom is and it is possible to see the continent and the São Sebastião Channel. Under it, at street level, are the living room, kitchen and bathroom.

The wood used on some doors and windows, staircase, shelves and furniture are leftovers of material used to make scaffoldings and molds for the white box reinforced structure.

© Djan Chu
© Djan Chu

The 3.00 m x 5.00 m white box is supported on one side by an existing retaining wall and on the other by a wall built with stones, a characteristic of local constructions.

section 03

This movement shapes the other 3 spaces of the construction, the access yard, between the box and the retaining wall that curves following the parking lot ramp’s floor, the courtyard, between the box and the rock and the void created under the box, where the living room is.

© Djan Chu


The impact caused by the image of concise volume, in comparison with the large rock’s amorphous exuberance, gives it a strange sensation.

During the work, the caretaker Zé Maria, still not content with his future living quarters, compared it with a can of sardines, a container as those he sees passing through the channel or even a cooler, like those used by beachgoers to carry beer.

Cite: "Box House / Alan Chu & Cristiano Kato" 15 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +8

    Architecture that plays off of the contrasts between nature, the plasticity of materials like concrete, and stone texture will never go out of style. These are the lessons taught, in particular, by Walter Gropius.

    This is particularly a nice project because it is so concise, not quite the intellectual rigor of the Cabanon but perfectly wonderful. The kitchen living space and its use of recycled materials is absolutely spot on.

    One of my favorite projects on Arch. Daily in a long time.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

    • Thumb up Thumb down -19

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down -11

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      • Thumb up Thumb down +1

        The person living in the house isn’t the client. It’s the client’s groundskeeper. And according to the article, he doesn’t like the house at all.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    here someone put a TV over the history a place, the old house was much better than the new, the TV could be in any place less than this.
    it’s a nice volum but, i’m sorry i think your kill a peace something.
    i agree bejamin SAD.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Very nice. Best box in a long time. The interiors open up to the outside spaces very beautifully and the ground level stone wall acts as a good reference to the old structure.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Beautiful, i absolutely love this.
    So simple and elegant, the juxtapostition of materials is excellent. LOVE IT!!

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Agree with Partick,disagree with Benjamin.
    Even if its old and “warm”,still-would you like to live in the house which have 10 squere metres?Havent tried?If so-dont speak so nostalgically abouth the past.The junctaposition bentween the past,”natural”elements, and the new one was worth to do :D

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    i am really sad about this project.
    i think the old house is much more better than the new one.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    yes mike,
    we need to preserve ancient structures that are inefficient, and would probably cost more to rennovate than just tearing down and starting over. duh….

    p.s. i believe the foundation was preserved or at least the footprint, and i assume keeping traces of the original structure was kept in mind when designing the new house.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Great project. Congratulations to the designer(s). I can not wait till it ages and blends in with the rock the way the old one was.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Even if its old and “warm”,still-would you like to live in the house which have 10 squere metres?Havent tried?If so-dont speak so nostalgically abouth the past.

    …so ur telling me the architect wasn’t good enough to increase the living area of the house and interiors but also keep the existing history of the old structure too… possibly they needed a more experienced architect on the job

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Haha… Tyler, awesome comment. Sooooo true.
    Benjamin – have YOU tried living in that small of a space? Many people have different lifestyles. Some people spend most of their time away from home, (off the computer), and are only in their homes to sleep, groom, and eat.
    I actually admire the preserve it takes for one to live in such minimalist conditions. It has the potential to be a great thing.
    The reason this got past the drawings and actually built was because the client approved them. He obviously knew what he was getting.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Amazing project , perfect integration with the beautiful landscape . I really like living in such a minimalist space. It’s more than a lifestyle its an ideology.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think,Benjamin,if there was any possibility to preserve the existing structure,the client (I think),maybe wished the same thing as you.But-sad but true-in my own practice-such structures cant hold anything-they are like the paper bags-holds their weight till you dont touch them.:(

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This house is located in Ilhabela, so it´s probably a weekend home, not intended for permanent living…

  15. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Only negative thing I can imagine is that the caretakers income probably is 1/100th of the expenses put into the building.

  16. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    No doubt the old house had its own charm (just this small cannon alone is a marvel) but what the architect did here is one of a kind creation and a beauty on its own! Congrats again guys. I love it!

  17. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Withut disturbing Gropius, I cannot do without saying that this is pure and crazy bullshit… no one will ever be able to convince me that a ugly CUBE OF CONCRETE crapped in a beautiful and wild environment is “simple and elegant”.. but are you crazy or what? A CUBE OF CONCRETE is a “particularly a nice project”??? …and may be the people around you think that you are a sentient being… of course, whenever you’re not full of dope…

  18. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Certainly “The new” just for the sake of it is not good, but also de old just because exists doesn’t make it better. but my main concern is on the last part of the description

    “compared it with a can of sardines, a container as those he sees passing through the channel or even a cooler, like those used by beachgoers to carry beer.” so what the purpose of architecture that doesn’t serves the person, it certainly a beautiful design and a very clever use of the space but then… is the person’s opinion irrelevant?

  19. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Maravilhoso! Um casulo (cápsula) de morar!
    Um dos projetos mais fantásticos que vi nos últimos tempos…

  20. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like this a lot. The original house, while completely charming, would be down instantly in a tremor. I lived in stone house that size in Greece for a winter and it’s easy to be nostalgic about it until you try it… I really like this project – it has a warm-climate, coastal feel. May not exactly be vernacular, but it feels open and fresh and functional. It looks to me as if many of the original stones were used, and it’s pretty close to the original footprint. The one thing that gives me pause is that the future inhabitant felt it looked like a cooler – though like the villagers where I lived, I bet he ultimately appreciated the improvements. The stairway inside is beautiful – that mix of simple planks and concrete, flanked by the stone walls, is fantastic.

  21. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    how surpised at first image shown above. the house just like ignore everything arround. the white wall block the view images, kinda bad feeling about it. i rather like if the building comes up as an element that keep the balance between buliding and environment. too much contrast about the element, color, material. in my opinion the white box of concrete just barely move from the urban house, no reason and no history.
    view from side really disturb me, thats all…
    anyway good design…

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