The 5th Annual Best of LaCantina competition saw its most inspiring range of entries to date, with a diverse range of stunning architectural designs submitted from the United States and beyond, each utilizing the unique qualities of LaCantina Doors‘ systems to blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors. Of the top projects submitted this year, a striking residence in Panama — Casa Loro — scooped the prestigious title of “Best in Show”. Its designers, the Panama and US-based firm IM-KM Architecture and Planning — led by Kristin and Ivan Morales — win a trip to next year’s AIA Conference, complete with travel and accommodation.
The project was approached with a deep sensitivity to local context. “The intent was to first restore, then relate to and engage with the site,” stated the architects. “The design needed to emerge from the restored forest to find wide open plains through, in, and around the main house. The concept of the main house at Casa Loro was to create a modern tree house made with contextual materials that enclose indoor and outdoor spaces equally.”
IM-KM paid special attention to material selection and spatial layout, seeking to create a home in which each space is uniquely designed to enhance the client’s sensory experience: “As we designed each of these spaces, we wanted them to have unique qualities of sound, materials, and light, that become integrated components that enhance the user’s experience and create specific memories of the place.
“This was achieved by hierarchically separating the spaces by a series of steps and platforms that are surrounded by gardens that attract biodiversity. As you circulate, each space becomes gradually more intimate until you reach the bedrooms and their private gardens. The ocean and fountain provide different acoustics depending on which space or garden you are in, and the shade from the various trees and palms create shadows that move around with the ocean breeze.”
The architects sought to create a hierarchical sequence of spaces that would offer inhabitants a sense of escape as they transition between each living space. IM-KM explained: “The pavilions of the main house are all balanced around the central pavilion which contains the vestibule and indoor and outdoor living rooms. From this central space, you transition from the modern world to somewhere else, where you can forget your day, and just be on holiday.”
Utilizing LaCantina’s sliding door systems, the façades of each pavilion are fully operable. When opened, the perimeter of the interior spaces become permeable and create a single larger room including the adjacent garden spaces and the ocean at the horizon. “When passing through the modern pavilion — from the vestibule into the outdoor living room — you are compressed and released into the vastness of the outdoor living room which looks out to the sea and the surrounding playful roof forms. It is meant to be an exciting, all-encompassing transition,” said the architects.
Casa Loro powerfully demonstrates how smart material and product selection can enable a seamless transition between interior spaces and the surrounding landscape. IM-KM’s adept use of LaCantina Doors systems helped create a serene home that is intimately connected to the unique natural environment of Panama, while producing an open-plan layout that is flooded with natural light. The house is proof that, when the right building products are employed and the details are well considered, a “Best in Show” outcome is possible.
Photographs by Anita Calero, Fernando Alda, and Emily Kinskey.