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Grass Roofed Home Built into Slope uses Hillside for Cooling

Peaking out from a hill in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, is a 5059sqft home designed by Chilean architectural firm Vasho. While most of the RD House is contained within the hill itself the front facade and some of the sides are left exposed as are terraces and, of course, the grass topped roof itself. While RD House is large, it is not perceptively so. By containing most of the structure below grade, the home is both invisible and visible, allowing the surrounding treescapes to be the dominant visual.

During the excavation of the site, rock was collected and put aside to be used as a construction and finishing material within the home itself. The subsequent rock walls – both on the inside and out – add to the natural aesthetic of the building and help it settle into the surrounding landscape even more.
The rock walls project from the hillside like an archaeological relic from ancient times.
While the rock walls have a historic look, the round void in the green roof as well as the concrete support structures definitely say modern day.
The void within the grassed over roof allows sunlight down to the covered terrace, and from the terrace it is like a portal to the stars.
On the side of the building, the terrace is open on three sides for panoramic hillside viewing. The terrace offers much needed shade on the hot Dominican Republic summers, but the void in the roof above gives the option of sitting in the sun on cooler days.
While the terrace provides a shady place for outdoor living, it also offers a place to really cool off – in the jacuzzi.
The jacuzzi is designed for relaxing on the below water bench that runs the length of it.
The jacuzzi is shaped to fit within the wider section of the terrace, stopping just short of where the terrace narrows substantially as it travels in front of the building itself.
The overhang of the roof provides shade for the jacuzzi when the sun is at its hottest. This also applies to the terrace itself as it travels from one end of the house to the other.
The safety rails on the terrace lean inwards as an extra precaution – especially for young children who might otherwise use the horizontal rails as a place to climb.
The large section of terrace on the side of the home means there is plenty of place for children to play outdoors.
Slopeside, the terrace meets up with the land, allowing any children – or adults – the ability to easily go further a field.
Access to and from the indoors is via large windows wrapped in wood that slide back and forth to either open up or close up the inner volumes.
The social zone – just inside of the terrace – includes the living, dining and kitchen areas. The living zone is taller then the other two spaces and features wrap around clerestory windows. Between the living and dining areas is a staircase that leads down to the bedrooms.
The kitchen features pale wood cabinetry against a natural rock wall. The ceiling and floors are also wood and the overall effect is one of a cabin within the woods. Since this is a vacation home in a hot climate, the cabin aesthetic is a perfect choice.
The stairs are a combination of steel balustrade and concrete walls. The concrete was moulded in pine formers and compliments the otherwise mostly wood interior.
The lower level is the private volume. Here, all the bedrooms have their own bathroom, study and/or library.
One of the challenges of the site was the lack of horizontal lines. Most of the site is angled up to 45 degrees and to design a 5059sqft home on a non-level surface required careful planning. Before the home was built, a precise survey mapped out the topography allowing the architect to define where the various locations of the home would be situated. The slope affected the distribution of the various zones but the architect was able to still provide a structure of open spaces, which is a characteristic of the locale.
By burying the house into the hill and covering the roof with grass eliminates the need for air conditioning. The green roof provides insulation from the direct heat of the sun while the buried rear of the building pulls cooler temperatures from the buried rocks it is in contact with. This transferring of cooler temperatures is called thermal inertia.
To use the thermal inertia of the land, highly engineered waterproofing methods where used. Domatics where also incorporated into the design of the building. Domatic is an intelligent system that integrates the control of all the lighting, sound, temperature of the Jacuzzi, and security (solenoid valves, cameras, alarm systems) from any location onsite or elsewhere.
While the private zones are mostly downstairs, there is a small bedroom on the main level behind the kitchen and beside the washroom.
The lower level is designed in a stagger with the Master Suite located in the largest section of the stagger. Next to it is a smaller bedroom and on the far end is another bedroom. A lounge area divides the two smaller bedrooms.
Photography by Eduardo Abreu


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