clear studios' holistic approach to living: the jewel box project clear studios' holistic approach to living: the jewel box project
oct 19, 2015

clear studios' holistic approach to living: the jewel box project

clear studios’ holistic approach to living: the jewel box project
all images courtesy of clear studios




new york based practice clear studios has recently completed the jewel box project, a house taking up a modest 45.7 ft2 foot print that sits on top of the 1,400 ft2 rooftop of casa vida vida in zona 4 of guatemala city. the residence is not merely a built structure but the first of an evolving series of homes that can be constructed all around the world. the jewel box stems from the idea that a dwelling should connect its inhabitants to the elements and provide the resources needed to live, integrating emerging sustainable technologies with simple building techniques that have been proven over centuries of refinement to create a living prototype that is energy positive and highly customizable to the inhabitant’s needs and the climate it’s built in.

entry facade of the house surrounded by greenery and recycled matrials




the project is very clearly rooted in it’s relationship with the natural surroundings, with vertical gardens lining portions of the exterior walls in addition to an enveloping garden fed by harvested grey water as well as a small zen garden adjacent to the structure that grows plants for tea. almost all the materials used are reclaimed material: stained wooden palettes converted into walls, wine bottles integrated into cast concrete blocks, recycled second-hand windows given new life, and locally sourced timber that makes up the primary structure. the design team worked closely with local builders and community, not only to ensure correct and safe building practices but also to share the techniques practiced in the project with the community in an effort to spark a movement within the rapidly changing neighborhood.

corrugated polycarbonate sheets allow natural light into the ground level





the modular structure consists of three stories, each providing a unique experience and connection to nature and its surroundings.  the entry level is an open and flexible space enveloped by vertical gardens, windows, and a large door that can open to unite the exterior gardens and interior space. this floor is used primarily for working and creating, containing shelving and a marble desk.  climbing a ladder through a curved aperture in the floor plate reveals a bedroom space and area of reflection. all the elements that make up this area are white, creating a blank canvas in which the user can be free of mental distractions. the rooftop serves as a space for connection to the world beyond- a solar array harvests light energy to power the structure while a gutter system collects rainwater for the shower and gardens. from this highest point of the house, a person is left to connect to the sky and surrounding city.  the separate kitchen and bathroom structures are strategically located to benefit from the inherent functionalities of the gardens and collected rainwater, forming pubic social spaces where meals can be shared within the jungle-like rooftop atmosphere.

steel vertical garden along the exterior of the house ideal for growing plants and food




with each element of the jewel box carefully planned to form a house centered around a balanced lifestyle, the prototype proves to be a promising strategy for future construction all around the world as standalone structures or infill projects.

(left) exposed timber structure forms part of the aesthetic
(right) view from the second-level floor opening to the ground level



wine bottle structure



exterior of wine bottle wall at kitchen



(left) second story
(right) shelving and marble table on the first floor



(left) exterior construction detail
(right) framing process



construction of the second story







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