Located in a typical Filipino gated community where most houses are designed in modern Mediterranean style, architect Jim Caumeron was commissioned to design a unique yet well-integrated dwelling. The area of the property is 300 square metres, so in order to lessen the cost of the project, the architect needed to reduce the square footage because in the Philippines, the cost of construction is based on a per square metre basis. The building footprint, therefore, was reduced to 100 square metres.
Jim Caumeron proposed to open the sides of the house for an expansive space. He called it the Panorama idea. Since there are no redeeming views in the surrounding area, other than the park across the property, the architect proposed that the house will have its own “world”—an introverted context by isolating some outside views.
The architect imagined it as a volume with two horizontal cuts. One cut for the ground level for views, ventilation, and extended space, and the second level for wind circulation and views to the outside. In the Philippines, wind circulation is paramount as it gets very hot during the summer months.
The site is slightly sloping, with a 1.5 metre drop when you reach the end of the property line that is parallel to the pavement. This gave an opportunity to sink the living and dining areas 1 metre down, making the park across the lot visually-framed to eye-level.
The steps that connect the entrance space to the living area was made into a “siesta” or quiet space, as it is common practice for Filipinos to allow their children to sleep in the afternoon. The living space expands to the garden area for breeze and view of the white-pebbled garden. The choice of using rocks instead of grass was because of its practicality of almost zero-maintenance. This resulted into a more other-worldly effect of the ground living areas as the white rocks bounce light that brighten the atmosphere.
The second level has a combination of horizontal and diagonal cuts that run around the structure’s envelope. One side has a bigger opening to embrace sunrise and breeze, and the west side where the sun is stronger, has smaller ribbon windows designed to pull out the air for passive cooling. The west and east windows are connected by diagonal windows on the north and south side that provide a strong profile of the cut-volume design on the facade.
The ceiling slope was also meant to influence the behaviour of air to cross from one side to the other. Room partitions were limited to a certain height to accommodate clerestory windows and allow the passage of air. The master bedroom dimension was expanded by occupying some space at the stair-well. This became a play area for the client’s young daughter. The windows of this play area look out to the stair-well that is spatially concealed allowing a wind-tunnel effect that cools down the 2nd floor common areas. Air can be felt when one is going up and down the stairs as the wind circulates toward the small ribbon windows of the west walls.
Besides the striking aesthetics of Panorama House, Jim Caumeron has designed a remarkably practical and highly-considered piece of architecture that ensures this home is a comfortable and peaceful environment at all times. This is minimalism with a great respect for details.