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Aquarela, houses in the forest

reading time: 5 minutes

Aquarela, houses in the forest

Nearly 600 apartments have been built in the new Aquarela residential development in Cumbayá, Ecuador. The project is a collaboration between Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Alberto Medem, Humboldt Arquitectos and Uribe Schwarzkopf, the developer. A building that interprets a new concept of urban life in harmony with the surrounding mountains and lush vegetation. The first recently completed towers feature some of the Marazzi collections, whose technical performance – together with the quality of the aesthetic solutions – were the decisive factors in the general contractor’s choice

Cumbayá is a town on the slopes of the Ilaló volcano, east of the capital Quito, in the Tumbaco Valley.

In this place surrounded by overpowering nature, bordering a native forest, Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Alberto Medem and Humboldt Arquitectos, together with real estate developer Uribe Schwarzkopf, are building a series of residential towers.

The new architecture resembles the steep mountains of Cumbayá’s surroundings; the towers are built around large interconnected green courtyards. The façades of the new buildings feature extensive vertical gardens and vegetation that will soon spread over the stone-clad surfaces.

For every tree cut down to build the new development, ten more will be planted, totalling 850 new trees. Residents will also be able to access a lower interest rate through green mortgages obtained due to the sustainability credentials of the new housing development.


Ceramics that can withstand the tropics

Sustainability is a central theme in Aquarela’s development. The design, construction choices and materials are part of a careful environmental strategy.

Natalia McLean, Director of Interior Design at Uribe Schwarzkopf, explains: “We selected high-quality materials that allowed us to experiment and create sensory stimuli. Always conscious of the fact that the value of these spaces is proportional to the well-being they can give to the people who inhabit them.

Wood and ceramic stoneware were the materials most consistent with the concept of the project, which resembles a large stone monolith covered with thick vegetation. The interior design was intended to be entirely in keeping with Jean Nouvel’s vision, although the choice of finishes and the development of the service areas were directly overseen by the developer.”

McLean concludes: “The sustainability of ceramic slabs and technical performance were crucial factors in the choice of materials. The forest climate and the guarantee of easy maintenance were decisive factors for the installation of the porcelain stoneware surfaces, which are expected to last at least two decades. Ceramic is a material that strongly engages our senses: aesthetic quality is often combined with a surprising tactile appeal.”


The work on the surfaces of the first recently completed towers is a true journey through the inspiration of nature.

The Mystone Ardesia and Rocking series, stone-effect porcelain stoneware in various tones, the wood-look Treverk, in beige, and the seductive marble-effect Allmarble stoneware in the Statuario version were chosen for the floor coverings. The contemporary marble and concrete effect of the Art Taupe series, in an anthracite colour, remains a key part of the range.

The naturalness of the Allmarble collection, and the minimalist brutalism of Art Taupe have been joined on the wall by slimline Grande Marble Look Golden White stoneware slabs, streaked with golden veins, and the 3D structure of the Color Code wall covering series. For the kitchen tops, the choice fell on the compact, satin-effect The Top Solid Color Look series, also in white.


Project realised in partnership with AREAUIO