Before architects Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa built this shining modern home on a quiet street in Brookline, the small plot of land was home to a run-down, one-story garage.
Surrounded by stately antique houses, the garage was an “ugly duckling,” according to the couple. García-Abril and Mesa, who both work at MIT and founded architecture firm Ensamble Studio, decided to revive the space with a home for their family.
“We didn’t want it to compromise the existing structure,” explains García-Abril. Rather than clear the plot for a completely new home, García-Abril and Mesa designed a lightweight structure to sit on top of the garage.
In order to avoid overloading the lower level, they built the top frame from lightweight steel beams, cladded it with foam insulation, and reinforced it with a thin layer of cement and fibers. The bulk of the construction, though, was done off site. Pieces of the home were prefabricated across the Atlantic in Madrid, Spain, then transported to Boston in shipping containers. Building took six days—one day for each container, explains García-Abril.
The finished product emerged in September 2015 as a sleek, two-story structure.
“The design is kind of silent and austere,” says García-Abril, “but it has a big opening to frame the beautiful woods that we have in front.” The oversized singular window acts almost like the eye of the home, which is part of the reason the couple dubbed it the “Cyclopean House,” after the one-eyed Greek mythological figure, Cyclops.
Each level offers 1,200 square feet. The first, which was originally the garage, houses the bedrooms for Anton, Debora, and their four children. The new upper level contains a family room, a work mezzanine, a kitchen, and a social space. The entire second floor is open concept—each living space flows into the next. A few walls have closets built into them, and one features built-in platforms for sofas. “Everything is embedded into the thickness of the walls,” says García-Abril. And since the property lacks a backyard, he created a roof deck with a garden. In warmer months, it boasts a barbecue area with seating.
García-Abril says that overall, custom-building the Cyclopean House with conventional materials turned out to be more cost-effective than buying an existing home in Brookline.
“It’s confirmed our expectations of comfort, of shelter, of durability,” says García-Abril. “It’s working extraordinarily well.”
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