Guatavita

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GUATAVITA

ADOBE HOUSE IN THE ANDES MOUNTAINS NEAR BOGOTA

Transformation of an abandoned modest adobe mountain refuge for a shepherd with his flock into a vacation house. The two adjunct plans show how the three existing original rooms were kept and transformed into a house with the additional spaces. The site is located on the Andes mountain overlooking the lake of Guatavita, two hours away by car from Bogota. The house is at an altitude of 3000 meters, accessible through a dirt winding road by jeep in the short dry season, but most of the time reachable by horseback. All construction materials had to be according to traditional techniques (adobes for the sustaining walls, roof structure made of bamboo rods and mountain straw for rain and snow protection. The only materials imported from the valley were the large glass panes that protected the living areas from the Andean cold, the floor ceramics and a few sacs of cement. These were brought by horseback.

It is important to note the difference in the quality of the adobe made in this house with the one that were made to build the house in Mali. While the Mali adobes in a hot and dry climate were ready for use after 48 hours of drying, the ones made in Guatavita were much denser in quality and took nearly six weeks to dry before being ready for use. The adobe solidity test (dropping the dry adobe held with both hands on the ground from the same height was a good test: the Mali one broke itself into a pile of earth while the Andean one stayed whole. I repeated the same experience with a commercial concrete block bought in the nearby town of Guatavita: it broke itself in 3 or 4 parts!

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