iapó village

Five befriended couples, all of which are climbers and nature lovers, shared the same dream: to build a small village of five houses with common use spaces to spend the weekends, a place close to the exuberant nature of the Serra do Cipó National Park that would serve as a base for their climbs. The park, an important conservation unit in Serra do Espinhaço, central area of the state of Minas Gerais, is famous for its beautiful waterfalls, canions and rock formations. 

The region of Serra do Cipó, nicknamed “Brazil’s garden” by Burle Marx, harbors an impressive biodiversity, and it was precisely the vegetation of a particular terrain that stood out for the five couples who looked for a place to build their village, called “Iapó”, which means “river of roots” in Tupi, and could’ve been the original name of the Cipó region. After the terrain was chosen, the project began based on guidelines set collectively by the five couples that were, therefore, shared with the architects as non-negotiable principles for the design of the Iapó Village.

The first and main principle referred to the implantation of the five houses, as well as the common spaces, which should fully respect the presence of several medium and large trees, even if that demanded a more heterodox allocation of the volumes. That meant there had to be several corrections done to the topographic surveys regarding the position of each tree, as well as small adjustments during the beginning of construction work, when earthmoving and foundation marking was being done. In addition to that, the careful definition of levels in each one of the volumes was also made in favor of the trees present on the ground. By respecting the original topography, balancing landcuts and landfills, minimal earthwork had to be done. The trees guided the project. 

The second principle referred to the architectural solution of the five houses. Its volumetry was based on two design gestures that focused on the issue of environmental sustainability, associating it to the functional, constructive and aesthetic issues of the building. The volume’s larger side was conformed as great plans of double seal, with ceramic bricks on the outside and concrete blocks on the inside, which created an excellent thermal inertia condition for these surfaces that receive most of the day’s solar radiation, given its extension. Moreover, this solution guarantees an adequate condition for the predial systems and grants greater privacy between each house. The second sustainable strategy consisted on enabling full openings on the smaller faces of the volume, ensuring an optimal cross ventilation condition, caused by pressure differences. Lastly, the choice of a shed roof leaning to the back of the house enlarges the front opening of the house, also contributing to the cross ventilation. This also made another fundamental principle possible: the Iapó Village, since the beginning of conversations and project, aimed for the rationalization of natural resources through the use of rainwater and solar energy. 

The building’s roofs function as grand rainwater collectors, directing it to a conductors system with a common concrete channel among the houses and outlets to treatment and distribution tanks. Besides that, the solar energy system for hot water guarantees significant energy savings.

The fourth fundamental environmental sustainability principle, which also dialogues with the social and economic sustainability principles, referred to the use of local materials and workmanship. It greatly reduced the transport impact of people and building materials, given local service was hired for the project. This means the bricks, blocks, metal profiles and wood pieces came from local suppliers, and the builders, joiners, locksmiths, electricians and firefighters were also local contractors. The idealization of a low-impact constructive work, without activities that meant too many people and machinery, also cooperated with reducing the impacts on local flora and fauna, at the same time it created minimal interference in the neighbor’s daily life. 

The construction was done and five families can now live their shared dream. The Iapó Village not only materializes the desire of these five couples of living close to each other and raising their kids close to nature, but it also materializes the conciliation between construction/occupation and respect and care for the environment. It reifies the difficult transformation of the such repeated idea of environmental sustainability on everyday living, that is still so diffuse.