Ecuadorian architect Aquiles Jarrin designs this industrial–natural hybrid home in Quito’s historic city centre

JUL 3, 2020 | By Aneesha Bhadri
A green oasis has been created by Ecuadorian architect Aquiles Jarrin; Photographs by JAG Studio
The interiors and furnishings are custom created by Jarrin, with the sole exception of the BKF chairs; Photographs by JAG Studio
The windows overlook Republican facades in Quito's city centre; Photographs by JAG Studio
The homeowners opted for an open layout with no stark divisions between communal and private spaces; Photographs by JAG Studio
Metal wall furnishings, not doors, separate the open plan from the bedrooms; Photographs by JAG Studio
The use of metal enabled all design elements to enhance functionality in this home; Photographs by JAG Studio
The social area brings out the skeletal look of the apartment, which is the key design highlight; Photographs by JAG Studio
By overlaying the placement of concrete columns to resemble tree trunks in a forest and placing potted greens, a more natural interior topography has been established; Photographs by JAG Studio
The overlapping of columns and beams allowed the floors to converge in a fluid, non-linear layout that makes the most of Quito's historic beauty and the undulations of the Andean foothills; Photographs by JAG Studio
Abundant sunlight filters into the apartment, accentuating its natural setting; Photographs by JAG Studio
A little pool beside the patio lends credence to the forest-like atmosphere; Photographs by JAG Studio
Furnishings—those custom crafted by the architect—as well as the BKF chairs complement the minimal look; Photographs by JAG Studio
A wider perspective of the main social lounge; Photographs by JAG Studio

This 1,200 sq ft apartment in Ecuador’s capital city is surrounded by historic edifices—blending European, Moorish and indigenous architectural styles—in one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO. Christened A Forest, the home is conceptualised by architect Aquiles Jarrin and the homeowners, who wanted a strong presence of nature as well as a social space with no strong divisions between communal and private zones.

Significant modifications were made to the structure, playing up existing attributes such as the abundance of light, airiness, existing concrete framework (with a free height of 3m) and, of course, the iconic backdrop of the ancient city of Quito, framed by Republican facades.

The interior walls were demolished for more ventilation and to add greens. Some were replaced by glass openings with an access to a green oasis configured out on the patio. Without walls, the columns of the structure stood out, compelling the experimental architect to design the project around them. So he envisioned them as tree trunks rather than mere support columns. This solidified the idea of the house being a wilder world—hence the name: A Forest—rather than a domestic space.

The concrete shell was left unadorned to highlight the minimal and brutalist ambience of the apartment in Quito; Photographs by JAG Studio

“If the columns were trees and the space a forest, they would appear as they do in nature—some towering and sweeping, some fallen and others converging and overlaying. A playful and experimental exercise began, until a configuration was decided to accommodate the needs of habitability. By overlapping ‘the trunks’, new floor levels were created and an interior topography established,” explains Jarrin. “The part I enjoyed designing the most were the long beams that cross the space, although my favourite spot is the interior garden,” he adds.

The layout of the apartment is quite simple—the open plan social area is revealed right at the entrance and to its right is the green patio. Large windows offer magnificent views of Quito’s famed locality at the Andean foothills.

Metal wall furnishings (not doors) segregate the main space from the bedrooms and bathroom. “All the architectural interior elements have been designed and produced manually, including the benches and lavatories. There is no sourced furniture except the BKF chairs,” says Jarrin.

For this multifunctional space, metal was found to be the most suitable material for its versatility and its use in developing design elements. By cleaning the place of any elements that covered up or diminished the material’s nature, an alluring contrast of brutalist surfaces and sleek finishes is achieved. It is made all the more dynamic by the lush green shrubbery that punctuates this stark space.