The green building program isn’t particularly new. In its rawest form, it’s been part of European construction for hundreds of years. The concepts are being applied elsewhere around the world.

The south central area of Chile in South America is a fashionable resort area. Clear lakes and thickets of cypress are dotted with upscale hotels, neatly-trimmed estates, and beaches that beckon the Pacific Ocean. It’s also home to an innovative green building practice called “organic architecture.”

An organic architecture home was recently completed by architect-builder Manuel Gaete Winkelmann, 55, an architect for 30 years and practitioner of the new discipline for eight. (He’s currently the president of his local architectural association.) The home seamlessly blends with its surroundings — in fact, it’s made from materials harvested directly from the site.

The 2,100-square-foot home, which was built over a 10-month span, is made of cypress harvested from the property itself. It’s situated on the shores of Lake Caburga near Pucón in the lake region of southern Chile. “This is a summer home for my clients who wished to build in harmony with the surroundings,” says Gaete Winkelmann.

The roofline was inspired by the little flying insects (coleopterans) that live in the woods surrounding the house. “The idea was not to invade, but to complete nature’s work,” Gaete Winkelmann says. “I wanted the house to exist as a part of the forest and to create a cozy place for the moments of relaxation.” As part of the plan, special emphasis was made on the “transition” spaces — those that separate the interior and exterior. “It had to have an attic as a possible bedroom, a kitchen, a family room, and two bathrooms with a place for changing clothes,” he says.

The home also features painted glass (called “vitrofusión”) in some windows. “I painted them specifically for the house because I wanted to play with the light from outside and give more color to the interior of the house,” Winkelmann says. “All the materials I used were natural and gave me only ground colors.”

The stones used to cover the columns of the foundations and in the joints between the ceiling and walls (called Gaudi styling) were all found on the property.

Gaete Winkelmann has also incorporated organic architecture in other projects, including the swimming pool at a Pucón spa.
“We could define organic architecture as an architecture that accepts changes while it’s being built,” he says. “These changes will depend on the materials, the surroundings, and its final function and use. The concepts we use are quite precise.”

For Gaete Winkelmann, organic architecture must fulfill three basic requirements:
1. Materials must be organic and ideally collected from the same place in which construction is taking place. Materials should also be in the most natural condition as possible.

“Manufactured or recycled materials can also be used,” Gaete Winkelmann says. “The main idea is to use as few manufactured products we can find. The ones we do use require low energy loss during their manufacturing process.
“There’s a constant rule in nature: The less energy you lose, or the more energy you save, the better the work is done,” he continues. “Organic architecture shows an enormous respect for the laws and rules in nature.”

2. The home’s concept of form and space must be in harmony with its surroundings. Influences can come from materials of different shapes and sizes (stones, rocks, pieces of wood, branches, mud, and recycled materials) and from conditions discovered during construction: underground rocks, trees which “claim” to be part of the construction, and underground springs or streams.

3. Energy-saving devices must be incorporated as part of the heating and cooling systems. Geothermic or solar energy are the most popular forms. Energy-efficient windows, walls, and ceilings must be carefully researched and planned.

More of this article ran in the Fall issue of Custom Wood Homes magazine.