architect Jose Roberto Paredes design the house for his family of four—was simply too difficult to build, they said. "People kept quitting," recalls Paredes, whose blueprints included oddly angled concrete walls and floor-to-ceiling glass panels. "In our country, any move away from conventional methods is sure to cause chaos." the architect is used to converting skeptics. When he founded his design studio in San Salvador four years ago, he named it Cincopatasalgato, from a popular Spanish expression meaning "five paws on a cat"—a metaphor for searching for the impossible. Fortunately, Paredes's wife, an advertising creative director, shares his adventurous spirit. The couple had been living with their two daughters (Pilar is del Cid's child from her first marriage) and fantasizing about a place where they could spread out when they discovered the perfect property, about 15 minutes away: a lush slope with views to the nearby Pacific, where they love to swim and surf. Paredes and del Cid chose the site for their house because of its natural beauty, so it made sense to design one that made the most of it. Every window and every angle are positioned so they can enjoy the show. The house's topsy-turvy shape, inspired by abstract sculptures, consists of a large platform encompassing loftlike living and dining areas that are supported by two small cubes on the ground level, where the bedrooms are. A proponent of green design, Paredes used a lot of sustainable materials, from recycled-fiber cement panels on the roof to renewable teak doors. The house stays cool without air conditioning, thanks to glass walls that can be tilted open to capture the breezes. "We wanted to touch the treetops, see the birds feeding, feel nature inside the house," he says. The openness not only keeps the family in nearly constant view of one another, but it exposes the workings of the lively household to anyone who walks up the driveway. Reactions to the architecture tend to be extreme, from disapproving tsks from the family's black-shawled matrons to raves from Pilar's teenage friends to general puzzlement from the neighbors. "We don't mind if they stare," del Cid says with a shrug. "We just make sure to wear our good pajamas."
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