Text description provided by the architects. Casa Cavalcante was built in the center of an area of 266 hectares, adjacent to the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park which houses one of the most important biomes in the world: the Cerrado (Brazilian savanna). Therefore, the intention to minimize the impact of the building on its surroundings guided the entire design process. The limited qualification of local labor, the enormous difficulty in accessing the land, the extremely hot climate in the region, and the limited budget for construction were the factors that defined its shape and materiality.
We defined the construction process in two stages. The first one applied prefabricated elements remotely and assembled at the construction site, while the second used mostly local handmade labor. We have decided to construct the semi-industrialized part of the house at first. Its macrostructure is composed of a modular sequence of metallic columns and covered by thermoacoustic roof tiles, also called sandwich tiles. In this way, we were able to provide shade to the workers and protect them from the intense sun while working on the second phase of the work, which used handmade construction processes.
The standard size of the thermoacoustic tile generated the structural modulation of the house and the roof pitch. The measures and inclinations were defined so that there was no cutting of parts during assembly, which would minimize the possibility of errors. The use of the extended eaves creates a spacious perimeter area that serves as circulation between the rooms and protects the house from direct sunlight during the hottest times of the day. The area of circulation on the “outside” provides the constant contact of the resident with the surrounding landscape.
All rooms have natural lighting and ventilation. Besides that, long-stay places (bedrooms, kitchen, and living room) also have constant cross ventilation and are protected from direct sunlight by the brise-soleil created with natural eucalyptus logs. In addition to being insect repellent, eucalyptus is an easy-to-grow tree. The east facade of the residence has a narrower strip of protection, while the facade facing the sunset has almost the entire vertical surface protected by this shading system.
The perimeter walls were built with adobe bricks made with local clay and the internal walls were erected with traditional Brazilian blocks with 8 holes (to provide the installation of electrical and hydraulic pipes), due to the reason that adobe walls are unable to embed pipes.
The house is raised from the ground for two reasons: to prevent creeping animals from rising and to protect the adobe walls of water in seasons with high rainfall.
Located in the cerrado, a biome where natural fires occur regularly, any building needs the ‘aceiro’, a kind of open area with suppression of cover and small tree species. The absence of plants around the house is therefore part of the fire protection strategy.
All electrical energy in the house is photovoltaic. It is produced through an “off-grid” system with solar panels installed in a slightly distant area.