Zum Hauptinhalt springen

Diffuse borders - House in Tumbaco, Ecuador


Text: arquitectura x Photos: Bicubik, Sebastián Crespo, Andrés Fernández

A project that started with uncertainties instead of the usual requirements for permanent living spaces, demanded we shifted the way we approached architecture. 

The project as it is now, is a house; it became a house in the process, with its actual configuration decided during construction, its final purpose and use still undecided, its duration as a house uncertain.

What is usually expected to be permanent in a house becomes impermanent, while the normally variable spaces become the permanent fixed points of the house.

© Bicubik, Sebastián Crespo, Andrés Fernández

Uncertainty and vagueness, considered as contrary to architectural principles and objectives, become the strategies and the tools for constructing the spaces which solve the family´s requirements. 

The family decided to gradually detach themselves from their apartment-city life and enjoy the amazing natural advantages of a lot which was becoming more and more accessible while maintaining its almost rural qualities. They didn’t exactly know how they wanted to inhabit the lot but they needed to start a project to help them decide based on two fixed requirements: a field for playing football and a barbeque for entertaining.

After unsuccessfully trying to establish an actual architectural starting point and many conversations on what the family expected now and over the years, we decided to embrace vagueness and the undefined as both method and built result.

This meant we had to develop a systematic spatial and dimensional strategy that could be directly translated into material, variable construction, a diffuse border system, a porous structure that could allow gradual and subtle change within a set of controllable rules, while keeping with the strict requirements of seismic resistance. 

© BICUBIK Sebastián Crespo, Andrés Fernández

A design method that was the actual construction system, a set of rules that allowed for uncertainty and variation in use and in the definition of the possible spaces the family would need to inhabit this place, as well as the time they would inhabit it for, while allowing us to develop the infrastructure independently of these decisions.

A redundant and light structural-material system based on standard steel flat bars, 6000 x 300 x 4 mm (6 and 8 mm where needed), arranged in a three dimensional lattice modulated every 600 mm.

Although the lattice has the exact same elements in all three directions it is actually two dimensional as the steel flat bars have no depth or volume.

The lattice is modulated but is irregular, elements are present and repeated only as structurally, spatially, or functionally needed, as furniture or protection from the elements. It allowed for variations every 600 mm, so the structural logic is the same as the spatial and organizational logic, every variation in organization had a position and dimensional variation on the lattice, with the final changes made during construction.


This lattice stands independent from the use and dimension of the spaces, but reacts and varies in order to respond to their layout, configuration, dimension and use. It is a diffuse border in all three dimensions but with a particular quality or degree of porosity, becoming literally as weak or strong as required. Depending on your position within or without the lattice it becomes absolutely defined and solid, or it apparently disappears. 

The patio with the barbeque, counter, bench and rock garden built in concrete are the permanent fixed elements, while the rest of the spaces vary and develop within the porous system.

The system is the opposite of the modern free plan container, it is open ended, every variation has to follow a certain rhythm and set of rules but it is never contained. It can vary in dimension and use, it can be closed or opened and eventually it can be disassembled and re used. All secondary construction systems are correspondingly modular and prefabricated.

It is not a fixed framework or do-mi-no system, it is not typological, it is not a reinterpretation of a vernacular house, it has no volume or associable form, it is not a house, it is currently used as a house but is a place for work, for weekend entertaining, for regularly holding football matches, for permanently sharing this living space with people outside the family. It is not just a house.         

Although the lattice is the structural system and the main spatial and material system, it is not identifiable as an architectural or structural element that relates us to a house, it is independent but co-dependent with the interior and exterior spaces, thus it is undefined, a diffuse border between architecture and structure, between material and immaterial, between inside and outside, between the natural and artificial, between the family and its guests.


arquitectura x
Cesar Izurieta, Franklin Quisalema
Ruales Izurieta family