Project in Detail
Artist House & Studio
Paramin, Trinidad and Tobago
Jenifer Smith Architects Ltd, port of spain, Trinidad and Tobago
site plan drawing
This project provides an unusual opportunity to design a working artist’s studio and weekend retreat for the artist Peter Doig and his family. The site is located at an elevation of approximately 500 feet above sea level in the coastal rainforest of the northern range of Trinidad with extensive views out to the Caribbean Sea and surrounding topography. The site comprises 1,800 m2 comprising a relatively stable plateau, with forested land rising steeply behind and in front of it. The site had no access to water or mains power supply and limited vehicular access. The proximity of the sea to the hills and valleys in this area create a microclimate, which can change with astonishing speed – from brilliant sunshine to low cloud and mist within a short time period. At night there can be strong winds. The design had to cater for hurricane resistance and meet onerous earthquake codes as well as create comfortable living conditions for both the dry and wet seasons, using only natural ventilation.
The brief from the Client was to provide weekend accommodation for his family, including five children, and a spacious studio where he could paint and be close to nature. The studio was to be integral to the house, with the facility for closing it off whilst still affording views and access to the surrounding area. The sleeping area for the family was to allow for complete privacy. Guests were to be accommodated in the main house. Water had to be collected from rain off the roofs to be stored underground and the entire electrical installation powered using solar energy.
One of the constraints for siting of the house was to minimise the site excavation and to retain all mature trees. The main body of the house and the studio are located on the plateau with the rear wall of the studio forming the retaining structure to the slope behind. The sleeping accommodation is located amongst trees at a slightly higher elevation. The two buildings are connected by a covered timber deck, adjacent to which is a protected area for an open fireplace. The deck is linked to the 4 m cantilevered deck that wraps around two sides of the main house.
The house is accessed by a sloped road faced in local blue stone with covered parking and storage to one side. The entrance to the house is through 4 metre high hardwood doors, which are located on either end of the 7m high, 15m x 3m hallway with access via large sliding teak doors to the studio on one side and the kitchen/dining space on the other. This hall is fully glazed overhead with toughened uv-resistant glass. At night the moon illuminates this space, supplementing the low-level floor washers set into the flanking in-situ concrete walls. Above the kitchen/dining area is another living area, which is accessed from the hall via a single flight of stairs. This can also double up as accommodation for additional visitors. A bathroom is located under the stairs.
Below this central hall is located the 18,000 gallon underground cistern. Rainwater is collected from the two main roofs, which slope down towards the central spine over the hall. The water is funneled into the cistern through downpipes, which are integral with the in-situ concrete columns. This water is then filtered and treated before being pumped to storage tanks high above the timber ‘dormitory’ block to supply the sanitary fixtures by gravity feed. The sloping roof at the front is angled at 12 degrees towards the south, to give the optimum position for the photovoltaic cell panels located there.
In the dormitory building there are 4 identical ‘cabins’ for the children, with internal sliding doors connecting pairs of rooms. The parents’ bedroom is a double volume at the rear with the sleeping accommodation at a mezzanine level with views over the roof of the other bedrooms. The bathrooms are located between the bedrooms and the access corridor, which also accommodates the wardrobes. The perimeter can be opened via pivoting louvred doors during the day, which are closed at night for security. The design allows for the rooms to be well ventilated even when the windows and shutters are closed.
All materials/finishes for this project demonstrate their construction method and have been selected for durability and ease of maintenance as well as texture/grain and appearance. The main house and studio is constructed of in-situ reinforced concrete frame and walls with the imprint of the timber formwork expressed. Doors and windows/louvers are constructed from Guyanese hardwoods such as teak and anderoba, which form a finely detailed counterpoint to the roughness of the concrete, The dormitory building is a hardwood timber frame clad in greenheart t&g boards with louvred sliding folding windows and pivoting doors. The roofs are all heavy gauge alu-zinc on hardwood shaped purlins. Floor finishes include in situ polished terrazzo on both levels of the main building and purple-heart for the sleeping quarters.
Jenifer Smith Architects Ltd
port of spain
Trinidad and Tobago