facade villa

The Moving Facade Of This Tropical Villa Doesn't Move The Way You Might Expect

«In Panama there’s this strange phenomenon of people that live in Panama City and want to escape the heat and the craze of the capital, but instead of enjoying the wonderful climate and beautiful nature there, they sit in these air-conditioned bunkers completely separated from the outside,» explained architect Haiko Cornelissen. «It was clear we had to completely rethink the vacation house in Panama.» The architect who so boldly brought the outdoors inside with the grass-topped PicNYC table is now candidly bringing the indoors outside with the Air Villa, an 800-square-foot private vacation house in Cerro Azul, Panama that adds a new dimension to a seemingly dated manipulation of interior and exterior.

As Cornelissen explains in a video for the Air Villa, the project was designed to establish a palpable connection with the lush, natural environment of Cerro Azul. The design team thus began by examiПing the typical local vacation home — the thick-walled «bunker,» as Cornelissen described it — and considered ways to radically modify its form to better integrate the architecture with its surroundings. «We took the typical vacation house in Panama, we removed the roof to expose its interior, flipped the house 90 degrees for natural cooling, lined up all the spaces to maximize their exposure, and finally introduced moving panels to manipulate how much house and surroundings are mixed.» In essence, the Air Villa is a rectangular volume with large, adjustable panels embedded in its facade that can be opened to the outdoors to allow for natural cooling and greater interaction with the natural environment.

For architecture fans, the facade with movable panels is a somewhat archaic design exploration, easily traceable to traditional Japanese architecture with its sliding doors and, in a more recent redux, the Steven Holl and Vito Acconci-designed 1993 renovation of The Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and the many contemporary architectural acolytes that have followed.

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But the inventiveness of Cornelissen’s design lies is the incredible versatility of the moving panels. The Air Villa’s panels are divided and oriented in such a way that they can traverse the entire depth of the villa. In other words, the traditional sliding door is re-invented to slide perpendicularly instead of side-to-side; when moved along their tracks, the panels can dice up interior into various spatial cross-sections with different levels of exposure to the outdoors. As a result, the bedroom, kitchen, diПing room, living room, and bathroom can be fully enclosed or partially and even fully open to the outdoors.

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