Exploring the architectural principle of prospect-and-refuge, one eco-modern design results in a dynamic union of opposites. Aptly named ‘Agama’, meaning a collection of sacred works, architect, Angel Cocero of San Juan-based Cocero Cordero Architects, and his wife, Beatriz Ferreira’s private tropical home on the outskirts of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico revels in the dichotomous interconnection of complementary opposites. Embracing the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, the residence achieves harmony of form and function, exhibiting innovative design driven by a green sensibility.
Accredited by the US Green Building Council as a leader in Environmental and Energy Design, Cocero sourced materials locally where possible to minimise both carbon footprint and construction waste. Using the Concretek System with fly ash recycled content for optimum wall insulation, the home has established areas for collection and storage of recyclables as well as down-lit exterior lighting and high, suspended ceilings with air gap chambers to prevent heat transfer. Low flow fixtures and Energy Star appliances work in tandem with the integrated solar water heater, photovoltaic and humidity sensor irrigation systems, and onsite wastewater management to create an environmentally responsible, climate-ready home characterised by its modern minimalist style and show-stopping ingenuity.
A coup d’état of experiential architecture, Agama is a microcosm of a small city – a series of buildings drawn together by a collective context, generating what Cocero calls, “a story of experiences… through a sequence of spaces.” Inspired by the visceral duality of the human psyche: the need for refuge paired with the prospect of escape – the home’s architectural scheme provides areas of retreat and concealment while simultaneously allowing for unimpeded views of the great beyond.
Sheltering the residence from the “exterior tumult,” Agama’s undulating heavy L-shaped walls and white, reflective overhangs and rooftops offer a daring, rectilinear, sculptural façade. The home’s northerly orientation allows for an interesting interplay of light, minimising surfaces with solar exposure and maximising ventilation, shade and views while securing privacy and protection from the street.
Like the mythical land of Narnia, crossing over into Agama’s promenade of spaces is tantamount to going ‘through the wardrobe’. One enters across grass honeycomb pavers (used for storm water control and to mitigate the heat island effect) from the exterior courtyard garden through a glass box, acting as a compressor foyer for the house. The soft curvilinear contours of an internal river – complete with washed pebbles – cascades through the length of the house culminating in an outside fountain. Inspired by water, its cleansing powers, “and its virtues of fluidity, transparency, tranquillity,” the design uses collected rainwater to integrate indoor and outdoor elements.
In continuous flow, a floating pedestal crossing explodes onto a double storey reception lounge with a glass curtain wall, overlooking the infinity pool and providing captivating views of the lush valley below. Optimising energy performance, operable glass fenestrations dominate, bringing in natural light and taking advantage of prevailing breezes to give a palpable sense of space and place while, a pale, neutral palette of white, grey and sand adds to the volumetric openness. Carefully selected hard surface materials: polished cement, porcelain tiles, glass and metal curtail humidity, while low absorbing, reflective fabrics combine with the stainless steel balcony railings and unobtrusive recessed and pendant lighting to create a sleek, clean minimalist interior.
Highly attuned to the needs of its inhabitants, the interdependence of polarities reveals the fundamental genius of this home. Agama’s celebration of seemingly contrary elements: obscurity versus clarity; randomness versus order; public versus private – results in the ultimate paradox of emotional balance and proportional harmony. With the transformative power of complementary opposites championing the cause of sustainable design, ‘green’ trailblazes its new path to become a leading light in the luxury market.