Flex / Studio Gil

Architects: Studio Gil with Max Rengifo
Location: Palmira,
Executive Architect: Luis Bueno
Structural Engineer: Mauricio Drada
Photographs: Fernando Agreda

is an exciting new practice focusing on design and dynamic solutions.

One of our first projects, ‘Flex’,  is a 260sqm, 3 storey single family house built in Palmira, Colombia.

Built using local construction techniques and local tradesmen, ‘Flex’ is a modern representation of a very traditional house.

The site is a 6m x 15m plot and lies in an urban location in the town of Palmira, Colombia. It sits in a terraced ‘slot’ effectively land-locked by adjacent buildings on 3 sides.

‘Flex’ consists of 2 main architectural ideas: the first is of 2 walls that ‘flex’ to contain storage for the house – the external concrete façade wall, and an internal frame element.

diagram 03

The second idea is of 2 courtyard lightwell spaces that flood every room in the house with natural light. The lightwells are open to the hot Colombian tropical climate bathing the house in sunlight as well as cooling and ventilating the building.

Cite: "Flex / Studio Gil" 12 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=24613>

35 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Thank you Studio Gil, its nice to see good design with modest construction techniques and finishes.
    Are those actual holes in the floor though?? isn’t that dangerous?

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    poor choice of materials doesn´t mean modest/local construction techniques- sorry

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    why though? yes, the floor and windows are not top quality, neither is the kitchen…but i think that is a worthy sacrifice. what are your specific problems with the project?

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Maybe if they show the finished work that could be understandable.(I mean, the hole in the floor, and the entire facade without windows).

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    yes, i agree the hole in the floors is a bit wacky and dangerous. a facade without windows though?? where?
    working with local contractors in colombia is difficult. it is an unskilled workforce and to achieve this quality of work is impressive. i am still curious as to what unwisely choosen materials alejandro is talking about

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like it, but the openings on the floor, even they look ok, they provide a visual vertical understanding of the total, seem low secure.Imagine walking in the night without light.Probably the risk is part of the proposal, but you don’t necesarily destroy the idea if you control whit a nice grid for a handrail like the linear elements in the higher storie.That should look part of the total, playing with incorporing tha outside to inside.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    where’s the fire pole? Not seeing much in the photos. Glass block skylight and faux something tiles are good choices? Combined with the lack of railing around the “holes” and the windowless facade make me wonder if they ran out of money. Windowless facade on it’s own is not all bad and the extrusions are interesting.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’m the Architect that designed the House :)
    PamArq, Luis: thank you for your positive comments. Its very encouraging to hear positive feedback.

    Some general comments about the project – Flex was designed on a VERY modest budget. The intention was always to design a house that could be built well by the local, generally untrained craftsmen of Palmira, Colombia. I believe in the final result this was acheived.

    Alejandro: the ‘poor’ choice of materials which you refer to is probably a comment on budget rather than taste. As i mentioned, the house was designed and built on a very small budget, so finishes had to be economical.

    Richi, Reger:
    ‘the entire facade without windows’ comment is a bit harsh – ouch :). These were publicity photos, and for this, all the windows on the facade were opened during the shoot. I assure you there are indeed windows on the external facade.

    All:
    The ‘holes in the floor’ are actually an unbuilt phase of the project. These ‘holes’ are openings cutting through the house. Inside these openings will be placed a steel frame with timber boxed shelving. Diagram 04 in the drawings shows this. My apologies for any confusion.

    Please keep your comments coming in, Its great to hear feedback from around the world.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Con todo el respeto…es vergonsozo que ud publique esto.
      No demuestra en nada la buena calidad de nuestra arquitectura.
      El costo nada tiene que ver con la calidad del producto, otra cosa es el problema de la manofactura que deja ver la falta de exigencia del arquitecto y un trabajo mediocre de supervision, sinceramente me da pena que el mundo vea este proyecto y mas que lo asocien con la arquitectura colombiana, pero lo que realmente me ofendio es que se atrevan a decir que es por la falta de mano de obra de calidad en el pais, nisiquiera y por ponerle un ejemplo, en villanueva cuya biblioteca se hizo con mano de obra local y materiales de la regin, que es en la mitad de la nada se vio algo tan horroroso y mal acabado como esto.
      Perdon pero aca lo unico que se ve es un ejemplo del mal gusto y la falta de calidad del constructor y en nada deja ver la calidad de las construcciones del pais.

      No puedo decir mas que…..lamentable.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    the finishes are hideous. the floor, the windows, the lack of handrail on those holes…
    maybe the photos are from an unfinished state of the construction.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’m the Architect that designed the House :)

    PamArq, Luis: thank you for your positive comments. Its very encouraging to hear positive feedback.

    Some general comments about the project – Flex was designed on a VERY modest budget. The intention was always to design a house that could be built well by the local, generally untrained craftsmen of Palmira, Colombia. I believe in the final result this was acheived.

    Alejandro: the ‘poor’ choice of materials which you refer to is probably a comment on budget rather than taste. As i mentioned, the house was designed and built on a very small budget,and assembled by local workers, so finishes had to be economical.

    Richi, Reger:
    ‘the entire facade without windows’ comment is a bit harsh – ouch :). These were publicity photos, and for this, all the windows on the facade were opened during the shoot. I assure you there are indeed windows on the external facade.

    All:
    The ‘holes in the floor’ are actually an unbuilt phase of the project. These ‘holes’ are openings cutting through the house. Inside these openings will be placed a steel frame with timber boxed shelving. Diagram 04 in the drawings shows this. My apologies for any confusion.

    Please keep your comments coming in, Its great to hear feedback from around the world.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    God, I see so many projects here in Mexico that look so much like this one… The exact same finishes, the same style, colors, handling of the volumes. I can’t stand it really! The floor tiles are indeed horrible, so are the railings in the windows, the kitchen. If I was given the choice between those tiles and some polished concrete, I’d go for the latter anytime, for example, and why not design the kitchen cabinets instead of buying that ugly one? That “terrace” on top of the house, or whatever it is, it looks like it’s not even finished, there are no pictures of that part of the house either. I just saw the TDA house by Cadaval and Sola Morales, featured on some AD round up about beach houses, I think that is a good example of doing more with less money and more design, for instance.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Sorry Mr. Architect but thanks for sharing.

    This would have been a great building if the architect only would’ve put more effort into its details. Indeed it lacks many. This vague effort is evident when analyzing the plans and section provided. Pops out the fact that it its off balance design, more toward the elaborated façade and less toward the unrelated interior, instead, it is chose to insert a storage wall in an attempt to integrate the “in” with the “out”. Sorry Mr. Architect this alone does not do it.

    Also budget and unskilled workforce should never be a reason not to come up with a creative solution, to a fairly small problem.

    D.Cacho

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I like what I see, but I’d like to see more interior shots, it’s difficult to get a sense of the interior spaces from the sections which all focus on the light well and flexing walls – both great ideas, which I’m sure make the interiors livable breathing spaces. Regardless of the choice of materials, it is refreshing to see a project that isn’t all about the same old polished finishes! I don’t believe the superficial / ‘superficie’ is so important in this project. I bet the Client / occupiers love it, so who gives a damn about pickety critics? Bravo Senor Arquitecto. Un opera de arte!

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Maybe is a good idea, and off course the house is better than the other ones in the neighborhood …but this project is not good enough to be posted here, there are so many good projects in Colombia, this one seems to be very normal….

    And sincerely modest budget can’t be the excuse.

    Drawings are better….

  15. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    First of all I completely agree with Paco.
    Gill: I insist upon the idea that modest/local construction techniques should not be an architect’s excuse, in other words in my opinion this project suffers from wanting to be something it could not be. Either economically and conceptually wise or even regarding it´s context: client, city, climate, local urban laws; thus in my opinion poor choice of materials mean unwise judgment, perhaps a bit foolish and imprudent but above all it lacks discretion and wisdom.
    For me really good architecture has a sense of being thought as a whole, has unity. Trying to build that with limit resources in such a context should make the architect rethink its strategy, perhaps with fewer gymnastics, without stopping to be modern but looking with a critical eye towards the local traditional architecture, its construction methods and it´s materials.
    In such a context : ‘Latin American modern cheap baroque’ it could have been better perhaps to suggest a modest facade (since the floor plans are really simple in their intentions compared to the facade) which emphasized the opposite thus establishing a better spatial relationship with the neighbors facades, regarding finishing’s instead of putting a cheap ceramic tile you could have the actual cement floor as your final finish just adding some cheap mineral color or cement aggregate, resulting in a cheaper monolithic floor without any ugly unthought-of floor expansion joints. And if your esthetic intentions were the ceramic tile finish with all those joints, perhaps if it was actually thought and not just placed randomly it would have been better.
    Ending in a higher note, as a conclusion I must say it´s nevertheless architecture – far better than the surroundings and Gill it´s obvious you have lots of ideas- keep at it.

  16. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Pedro – I really appreciate your commenting. Its fantastic to have an actual dialogue occurring, world wide no less – Cheers to that!

  17. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I am surprised by the fact that so many people become impressed with the simplest and most irrelevant builidings. This is just your everyday house between median walls present in any developing country in the world; simply “enhanced” with a “contemporary” facade and a HUGE explanation (graphic, conceptual, etc.) to make it supposedly interesting.

    I guess if some artists are allowed to sell their own canned feces, any architect sell his own, behind a cute front wall. It’s all in the way you sell it to the public, isn’t it?

    The plan shows a complete ignorance of local cultural patterns (have these guys ever heard about Mr. Alexander?). Open kitchens and sleeping rooms in every floor, even next to the kitchen, are clearly contrary to the residential habits of the Cauca Valley inhabitants, used to clear functional divisions between social, private and service areas in their houses; even when they’re poor.

    Not to mention issues of climate and light, which are unsolved. Small inner – courts are useless in a tropical region where the median temperature is close to 100oF day and year long.

    I wonder, finally, how the designers managed to build a new-three-story-single-family without any parking space. Local regulations are clear on this point; which allows me to believe this was built without legal permits.

    Is everybody still thinking a “cool” facade immediately means global interest and internet relevance? As for me, I rather stick to the old stuff: wonderful plans, great spaces, fine details and an overall strong intellectual excercise, accounting for culture, climate, rules and regulations and the almost infinite number of things great architecture has always been known to solve – when it’s good architecture, that is… Something which this “flex” is definitely not!

  18. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I still love this house and a give lots of credit to Studio Gil! People don’t understand the difficulty of building in a non-first world country without wealthy clients.
    It is very brave of studio-gil and their client to attempt to build this structure. Most new buildings in these areas are either completely sealed air-conditioned boxes or carbon copies of north american suburban housing. There is very little attempt at innovation or creating quality buildings. Shame on those ignorant few who say that this project shouldn’t be posted on ArchDaily.

  19. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    In any case (being the devil´s advocate) it would seem that Panamarq is saying that Latin American architecture needs some kind of affirmative action policy to be able to compete in equal terms with better off nations.
    I personally don´t think so, as I said before it´s not merely a question of bad economics and lots of bravery, it´s more a lack of a well thought project , which means that even though the conditions were not optimal the ideas succeeded in being well delivered.
    Besides, this is not concluding, for sure Studio Gill next project will be different, probably better. We must remember that this forum is of ideas and opinions not of people.

  20. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    If PanamArq wasn’t as ignorant as he believes we are, he would know the astonishing work of such firms as Borrero Zamorano and Giovanelli; Lago & Saenz; Zornosa, O’Byrne & Tascon and Samuel Garcia – great Colombian architects working in the Cali – Palmira area after the late 50s. Not to mention german architect Leopoldo Rother’s wonderful School of Agriculture, in this same town.
    If he wasn’t so excited by Gil’s masterpiece, he would then be able to see some amazing architecture, with facades far, far better than this clumsy exhibition of “contemporariness”, with a climate and culture conscious design reflected in the beauty of the overall design (materials included).
    It is easy for others to criticize us simply because we don’t share their enthusiasm. The argument of ignorance is definitely absurd – childlike even.
    Believing poverty necessarily equals poor quality standards is extremely weak as an argument. Van Eyck in Africa, Corbusier in India, Kahn in Pakistan, Barragan in Mexico, Dieste in Uruguay, and a huge etcetera could lecture any first world architect in material quality.
    As of PanamArq, I guess emotion seems to blind those who have an overwhelming faith in a poor “zeitgeist”, consisting – such is the case of runway models, pop icons and movie stars – in the sad illusion that a beautiful box or a fancy ribbon need to be loftier than the gift they wrap.
    Simple taoism for the igonrant: we build with walls, but what makes a building useful is the space inside.

  21. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    you can not judge Studio Gil on the same scale as Kahn and Le Corbusier. Neither can you group every latin american country together. The problem with viewing architecture via the internet is that you lose context. Is this house better than other houses posted on archDaily? NO! But it shouldn’t be judged against them. It should be judged against its neighbors. (No, this isn’t affirmative action Alejandro)
    Let’s use football as an example… Don’t you enjoy watching the South Korean national team play against the Trinidad and Tobago national team every so often? The games are enjoyable even if they are not fundamentally perfect or by the most skilled players in the world. If we were only to watch the best footballers and scorn the rest, we would be stuck watching the same top teams over and over again. Yes, its beautiful football but it is the same beautiful football over and over again. Isn’t it exciting to see some country over achieve and surprise you?
    I am simply happy to see more quality coming from this area of the world at this time period. I understand it is not a masterpiece, but I still enjoy it. is there a problem with that??? i just wish that it wasn’t only the architecture snobs who posted here. everybody else speak up!

  22. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I agree with you in that you cannot judge Studio Gil on the same scale as Kahn or Le Corbusier
    -or putting it in other terms you cannot compare Studio Gil with other more experienced local professionals, be it in Colombia, Argentina or México.
    However, I do think that even in these post modern globalized crisis époque understating where we are in a deep intellectual level-meaning understanding local culture, history, society, economics, materials, zeitgeist, etc. is the best way to built a better society/architecture.
    I have recently read a really good book (Arquitectura Descentrada) about that, it explains in view of the author Mariana Weissmann the relationships that exists between Latin American architecture production (in a historic and contemporary perspective) and the main centers of conceptual and technological production up to the 90´s (meaning Europe and the States) . In Arquitectura decentrada Marina makes the obvious point that we Latin Americans are not equal, meaning that not everything was made in the same way in our different countries, at the same time and with the same technology. More over that modernity arrived differently and was appropriated in different ways. Example: Barragán in Mexico is important architecturally wise because he reflected the intangible values of Mexican architecture but with a modern spatial discourse, in Colombia Rogelio Salmona did the same, in Brazil Niemeyer expressed that open plan sensuality Brazilians love, etc. But for instance to make the opposite case Argentineans are a bit crap- they are too European to notice that there not in Europe and be able to produce something original/local.
    It´s clear to me what architecture should be, it´s not an image or a plan, and we aren’t all snobs getting high on esthetics or functionality in the internet.

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