Grid House / Forte, Gimenes & Marcondes Ferraz Arquitetos


Architects: Forte, Gimenes & Marcondes Ferraz Arquitetos
Location: Serra da Mantiqueira, Brazil
Architects in Charge: Fernando Forte, Lourenço Gimenes and Rodrigo Marcondes Ferraz
Collaborators: Renata Davi, Renata Buschinelli Goes, Luiz Florence, Adriana Junqueira, Paloma Delgado, Ivo Magaldi, André Malheiros, Luciana Muller, Débora Zeppellini, Marília Caetano, Nilton Rossi, Ana Paula Barbosa
Landscape Design: CAP – Fernando Chacel and Sidney Linhares
Project year: 2005-2007
Photographs: Alexandre Schneider

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In an area of 53.24 hectares, only 65,000 square meters are not covered by the lush native intact forest that is permanently protected. In this area of accidented topography, where large stones are surrounded by Araucaria trees, a small valley was chosen, protected from the winds and close to the forest. This is where the natural walking paths cross: the site where people who arrive at the plot of land go to, access to the paths leading to the heart of the forest and to the top of the hill where one sees an impressive view.

Three main issues have guided the project conception: the demand for a single-story house, the wish to establish a direct relationship with the land and nature and also the need to provide privacy to the members of the family, with the main area located in one single building. Another important factor that we took into consideration was the region’s high humidity levels, which led us to suggest a house above the ground.


A structural grid in , with 5.5×5.5x3m modules, suspended above this nucleus for accesses, connects the existing paths and creates new ones. Thus, one may cross the bridge structure in three different ways: from above (the roof garden, which is a projection of the plot), from beneath (crossing a garden with water mirror and natural stones) and going via the middle of the house (crossing an external covered area). This grid has modules, some of which are taken up by closed environments; other ones are totally empty, allowing that the trees from the garden below cross the structure.

roof plan
roof plan

The program in the grid is made up of a nucleus, with washing area, social area, guest room and the owner’s apartment, and three isolate modules, with two bedrooms each, for the children. Among these, the empty modules highlight the structural continuity and enhance the empty spaces where the garden can be seen. This empty and closed spaces game provides a fragmented organization of the program, protecting the privacy of the users and, at the same time, enabling an understanding of the building set as a cohesive unit.

Suspended above the valley and merging into the hills, the house becomes the land and the land becomes the house, creating a new landscape. The built-up empty spaces, simultaneously inside and outside, allow us to see, under the grid, stones and garden the native forest, the surrounding trees and the supporting stones, where the house is immersed.


The wooden grid, supported by a set of concrete pillars, is set on the hill on two sides, as if sprouting from the ground. At this point of contact, the land is engraved by several walls made up of stones drawn from the same area. To avoid an excessive number of pillars in the 2000-square-meter structure projection, and to provide wider open views of the garden below, large trussed beams in cor-ten steel are placed at each two modules, each one of them 11 meters long. These beams, together with the landscaping, make up an important part of this work.

On the top of the highest hill, from where one has the most generous view of the mountainous horizon, lies the leisure pavilion, divided up in two blocks, with the same modulation of the main residence. The pavilion is supported by metallic beams in cor-ten steel, in a wing shape, enabling 100% of the balances in the free span, on the hills’ borders. The leisure pavilion and the residence block, with the same structural grid showing antagonistic situations of land occupation – whether in the valley or on the hill, the module establishes a clear dialog with the topography. Another 3 service pavilions with garage, housekeeper’s house, accommodations for the maids, dressing rooms, warehouses, etc. are pavilion-like constructions, with the same 5.5 X 5.5 meter module, albeit in a stone structure. Large parallel panels made out of stone anchored on the ground support the slabs. While the wooden constructions are light and ethereal, these blocks are evidence of their different function through the clear support of the large panels on the ground.


Three levels of landscape intervention have been defined. The idea is to rebuild the margins of the forest and create a transition between the open field and the closed forest by using native species, compatible with the region. At the same time, in the remainder of the open area, the park is taken up by paths with resting areas in the areas where the best views can be observed. Finally, at the sites close to the buildings there is a garden prior to the architecture work. At the top floor, which is a continuation of the plot, there is a linear water mirror that avoids the use of body protector and relates to the large water mirror located in the lower garden, around which the largest stone at the site.

Cite: "Grid House / Forte, Gimenes & Marcondes Ferraz Arquitetos" 15 Jul 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • morinaga

    it wont feel like a house.

  • Ali S

    Fantastic project, nicely blended with the terrain, eventhough the grid tends to be forceful, lots of opportunities have been exploited to integrate the spaces with the site. Great job

  • C.P.T.L.

    “Suspended above the valley and merging into the hills, the house becomes the land and the land becomes the house, creating a new landscape.”

    “…as if sprouting from the ground.”

    Be architects, or be bad poets, but don’t imagine that a grid of boxes, the only right angles in sight, perhaps within miles, in the heart of nature ‘merged’ with anything, or did anything except clash diametrically with the landscape; or that any cute turn of word might make it so.

    Sprouted and “immersed”; my a–.

  • INawe

    Modernism grid is nice. Dated but nice.

  • cad

    x2 good integration of house and landscape, but spreading itself thin. Circulation to living space ratio way out of proportion, it’ll get tiring walking from different area. Otherwise nicely modern.


    what a waste of steel!

    ….when are you going to finish the project?

  • sudaca

    ….OKS house by Antonio Bonet…..

    take a look…. it´s evolution

  • tropicalismo360

    Well that is a whole lotta house! – absoulutely enormous for the actual living space that you get out of it. It certainly has some poetic moments (although like C.P.T.L. says – bad, bad poetry in words). I also wonder how resilient cor-ten steel will be in the relentless humid climate. Nevertheless, and absolute dream location.

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Sorry, but this is wasteful and dumb. There is no spatial motivation to do this, at least none that is explained in words or pictures. Also, the interior smacks of third-rate hotel.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • farflung

    some of the detailing here is very nice. however, i do agree that it is wasteful, and that no amount of talkitecture can make a project what it clearly aint.

  • Medusa

    I guess that you have to come from certain latitudes to understand certain things. This house is one of the most fascinating and sophisticated projects I’ve seen in a long time. Whereas architecture in template climates was traditionally defined by thick walls and roof so you can protect yourself in winter, tropical architecture is all about providing a shade; you don’t need more than that. As a result the intermediate space, the interstice between the inside and the outside is the key feature. Walls could be screens; verandas and pergolas could define your outdoor space, etc. Not by chance Semper was so fascinated by the tropical hut: a screen, a roof and four columns. His whole theory on tectonic departed from that observation.
    To the doubters… I hope you can imagine this house in 10 years… maybe even 5, given the rate of growth in the tropic… The house engulfed by the green… and all those intermediate space partially shaded, partially outside that will make the lucky owners incredibly happy while drinking caipirinhas… then we will talk about integrating with the landscape… not with the simplistic imitations of landscape forms with floors that become walls that become roof… and you get the idea…
    And in a country that is producing some of the most exciting architecture nowadays not by chance this house won award as a project and built work from the Institute of Brasilian Architects (Sao Paulo department).
    Sorry for the long comment.. (And I could keep going… Team X, Case studies, Lucio Costa… etc)

    • Emilio

      I completly agree with you

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  • Richard Z. Sirois

    Great concept! The interior is bright and spacious. Like others have pointed out, it seems like an excess of materials was used simply to demonstrate the grid pattern of the house, without the uninhabited sections of the house having any real purpose or use. Why frame whole sections with steel if the idea is to let tropical plants fill those spaces?

    I give it 7/10.

  • StructureHub Blog

    2/3s right. The finished product is too scattered / too random in layout for me, however; having such incomprehensible floorplans and perspectives makes it much harder to appreciate it for what it is.

  • sullka

    hehehehe…..I’m currently reading HAUNTED, by Chuck Pahlaniuk, not so good compared to other novels by him, but anyways, there’s one story in the book, about a Chef that went into killing rampage, the common pattern on all the victims: critics.

    As he said, nowadays, anybody with a mouth and a computer, is an internet critic, so true.

    I respect other’s opinions, however to me that house is beautiful, I would love to be live there, I bet the clients are fully enjoying it.

  • Lite

    Hi there Medusa
    You’re almost there. But the point about the tropics and brazilian architecture is doubtable. By the mountains, trees and vegetation, that place doesn’t seem to be in the same tropical latitude as the rainforest (as for instance). It actually seem to be a mild weather out there (but this is just a minor impression).
    What really catches me in your argument is the point about being awarded and etc. Is Brazil really producing one of the most exciting architecture in the world? So where are these?
    I can talk about few architects in brazil with small by beautiful projects (A. Bucci, MMBB, etc). But i can also remeber some posts here @ archdaily about a brazilian pavilion and the crap about it’s competition. Also something about the qualities about some of the world cup stadiums.

    As for me i think the house is nice. Far from being a master piece, far from being a crap. A nice house.

  • tropicalismo360

    @Medusa, integrating with the external is great but you don’t have to have bits of building and open frame *everywhere* to achieve that.

  • Troy Lemieur

    It seems like you would want to reduce the amount of materials needed by placing rooms of the same household next to each other. All that steel and wood seems wasteful too. Sure, it’s respectable design, but there’s a point where things become wasteful, and I think this project crossed it.