Your Dream Vacation House Costs Just $80K

Check out the astonishing photos to see out how one guy built his.

Friday, January 01, 2010

When architect Juan Pablo Corvalán and his dad, Oscar, went searching for land to buy in the Central Valley of Chile, near the city of Talca, they saw many variations on the same drab, flat plot. That is, until they found 5,000 square meters (about 1.25 acres) next to a vineyard with an astonishing view of the Pencahue Valley and the surrounding Andes. The terrain was so severely sloped that Corvalán didn't know if he could put a house on it. But it was cheap, around $10,000, so he persuaded his doubting father to make a leap of faith and told himself, "I'll find a way to build something here."

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Three years later, the 36-year-old created a home for his dad that looks like one of Richard Neutra's Hollywood Hills projects crossed with a wooden UFO. Corvalán envisioned a rectangle sheathed in glass from floor to ceiling, and then—to anchor it on the incline—he placed it on stilts and topped it all off with a sprawling cypress-wood terrace that can accommodate 80 people. "Normally, the roof is the last thing you think about," Corvalán says. "But the first thing you see is this wooden terrace. It's a terrace with a house underneath it."

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At first, the 64-year-old Oscar, a sociology professor at nearby Talca University, complained about the lack of handrails on the ramp leading to the roof, but he ultimately deferred to his son. "It's not urban architecture," Corvalán says. "It would be really strange to put handrails in a place where you can fall walking outside." In time, Oscar not only conceded the argument but became a true convert, moving in before the house was finished. "He was squatting there," Corvalán says. Today Oscar cheerfully scales the walk to the rooftop—he can also hoist himself up with an inside ladder similar to the ones found in swimming pools. He's even thinking about putting a hot tub up there. "My father's very proud of his house," Corvalán says. "He never says it to me directly, but I get comments from his friends."

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Corvalán's favorite spot in the house is this corner where the roof reaches its maximum height. "It's very calm," he says. "I worried it was going to be too exposed, but it's not."
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