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An urban infill lot in Lima, Peru, 206 feet long and 43 feet wide, with a jog in the middle, might not seem optimal for a single-family home. But the Peruvian firm 51-1 Arquitectos encouraged its clients, a couple with four children, to work within those parameters. “We could imagine an extraordinary garden tying together the different parts of the house,” says 51-1 principal Fernando Puente Arnao. The family already lived at the west end of the site in this residential neighborhood of Lima, in a two-story 1980s brick-and-concrete townhouse that they owned but had outgrown. A high priority was more outdoor space, where the kids could safely play. So they followed 51-1’s advice and bought the property, then on the market, whose yard was back-to-back with theirs.

Elongated Garden House.
Elongated Garden House.

A garden links to a new structure (1), with a terrace and a pool extending into the lawn (2). Photos © Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma, click to enlarge.

The architectural challenge was how to create a unified whole—and offset the long site’s potentially awkward proportions and quirky misalignment between the two lots. The solution involved reconfiguring the family’s original 3,750-square-foot building, adding 1,260 square feet at the top to house the couple’s bedroom suite. Now a hanging sculptural staircase connects all levels, animating a skylit, three-story-high vertical-circulation space.

Elongated Garden House.

In the existing dwelling, a sculptural stair animates a three-story space. Photo © Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

For the combined site’s east end, 51-1 designed a 3,320-square-foot, three-story building (with its own facade on another street) to include a four-car garage, a home office, music room/study, and indoor-out living/dining area. That communal space—with a fireplace and built-in barbecue area—spills out toward a swimming pool. On its garden side, the almost complete openness of this lower level, spanning its lateral supporting walls, gives the new structure a floating quality.

By building the pool as a primarily concrete box above grade, 51-1 bypassed the expense and hassle of excavation. Subtly recontoured, the garden slopes up from the existing house to the pool deck and the new building’s second floor, while the story below it, containing the garage, is at grade with the street. Dynamically unifying the site, this topographical solution is reinforced by the garden’s enclosing walls, now draped with hanging vines and clad (as are both buildings) in burnt terra-cotta tile.

As a result, the place has the modern feel of casual indoor-outdoor living in Lima’s temperate climate—and, at the same time, an overarching sense of romantic overgrowth, like an ancient ruin.

Elongated Garden House.

The lawn slopes from the existing house up to the new one. Walls are clad in burnt terra-cotta. Photo © Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

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Elongated Garden House.