Casa Chontay by Marina Vella Arquitectos

This 1,453 sq ft stone residence is situated in Antioquia District, Peru.

It was designed in 2014 by Marina Vella Arquitectos.

Description by Marina Vella Arquitectos


The project is located in a 5,800m2 (62,430.68ft2) rural plot south-east of Lima, 40.5 km (25 mi) from the road that borders the Lurin River from Lima to Huarochiri. The road that leads to the site is surrounded by a beautiful landscape where stone, wood, clay and local flora stand out.

The irregular site is 70 meters (229 feet) higher than the River area, becoming a great natural balcony of the mountains/valley and the lush vegetation surrounding it.


It was a great opportunity to highlight conservation by using sustainable materials that blend unobtrusively with the landscape creating sensorial and visual bonds among the users, the landscape and architecture. Choosing an exact location was challenging and it lead to a solution of two independent volumes articulated by a garden lined up with the existing trees and the valley. This allows the users to have constant connection with nature and outdoor activities.

Main design ideas

– Respect the environment and become part of it; the two volumes are elements in harmony with the environment, each can be surrounded and therefore loose the front-back effect.
– Create a habitat in harmony with the surrounding tones of nature; all the natural resources available on the site have been used: stone, adobe, eucalyptus and cane as well as the traditional construction techniques. The plants are used as design elements, thus integrating the volumes with the landscape and making them part of it.
– In order to maximize the area for agricultural purposes and outdoor activities the program was solved in a minimum area.

Functional organization

– Parking in the upper area of the site. Access to the house by a pedestrian pathway through a sown field. A lateral path is to be used for harvesting purposes.
– The living room, dinning room and kitchen are located in a 68 m2 area sheltered by a tall volume, large window screens assure natural light and cross ventilation.
– The 67 m2 (721 ft2) lower volume has a distribution hall to 3 bedrooms, an attic, 2 bathrooms and the terrace. To ensure the bedroom’s good ventilation and lighting low windows are oriented towards the East and the “teatinas” (Peruvian roof windows used since colonial times) are oriented towards West. The balconied terrace is oriented towards the valley.
– Outside activities: hammocks area, fire area, and a playground area, gazebo, and swimming pool are surrounded by green and an orchard.


A builder with local knowledge of traditional construction techniques was selected for this phase. In order to rationalize investment resources and time limits it was decided to use a mix construction system; in first phase concrete columns, beams and slabs supported by an adjoining foundation. In second phase walls were built with local materials: stone, adobe and the cane.

A large curved dry-stone interior and exterior wall gives shape to the high and low volumes on the East side. The transversal walls were built with adobes were made in-situ and used to delimit the terrace. Eucalyptus wood is the structural element that supports the “Carrizo” (reed grass) sunroof in the terrace. Recycled wood is used for the floors, doors, windows, and shutters.


Large stones found on site were selected and arranged in an ergonomic way during land movements. For the coating of soil ornamental plants were selected on the basis of the least water need.

Bougainvillea , bignonia and Jasmine are vines used to give color to the structure. To protect the slope between the stone wall on the west side and the upper parts of the ground, Vetiver was used, a plant with a very deep root that acts as a containing wall by controlling the erosion of the land.

Photography by Gonzalo Cáceres Dancuart

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- by Matt Watts