Built in the spirit of open-source design, Ajijic House
is the product of a dynamic collaboration between a
multidisciplinary team of architects, artists and designers
working closely with the client. This highly integrated process
of designing and constructing the house transformed what
could have been a traditional provider-client relationship into
a deeply bonding experience in which the user and architect
became accomplices and co-authors.
This weekend home is located in the beautiful sleepy town of Ajijic, Jalisco, on the northern shore of the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, Lake Chapala. Built for a family of three, the house's design is composed of four cubes, three separate volumes (one for each family member) and a fourth representing the family as a unified whole.
Beyond their symbolic resonance, the cubes are divided between public and private spaces connected through circulations created in the areas where the cubes overlap. The two cubes aligned with the lake and mountain vistas host the common areas, while the two other volumes are more closed, intimate, containing the bedrooms, bathrooms and studio. The construction and distribution of the house poetically reflect on the solidity of the family and the centrality of these relationships to the client, creating quiet, reflective areas as well as permeable communal spaces that open up with views of the surrounding landscape.
Ajijic House was constructed using rammed earth, an ancient construction method in which a mix of damp earth and a stabilising agent is compressed into a temporary formwork. In this case, the walls were produced using a combination of earth sourced on site and 8 to 12 per cent cement, significantly reducing the cost of materials. A layer of the dirt and cement mixture is first poured into a modular wood formwork and then compacted either manually or with the aid of a pneumatic tamper, leaving the walls with a delicate banded complexion.
Although labour-intensive, rammed earth constructions ultimately save on energy consumption by creating "breathing walls" that regulate the internal microclimate of the house while effectively blocking out any surrounding noise. The incredible depth and range in the colour of the walls complement the simple geometric plan and establish a more intimate relationship to the natural surroundings.
As in a number of her past projects, Tatiana Bilbao decided to invite several artists and designers to collaborate with her on the development of the interior domestic spaces and finishings. For example, Rodolfo Diaz and Marco Rountree, two young and creative artists based in Mexico City, created a system of light-pink patterned tiles for the bathrooms, while the artist Cynthia Gutierrez from Guadalajara produced geometric brise-soleils in vinyl for the windows, and Cuban sculptor Jorge Pardo custom-designed six lamps distributed throughout the house.
Tatiana Bilbao's disciplined involvement of her clients and
of professionals from other fields in her designs not only
accomplishes beautiful results, but also imbues them with a
tangible sense of warmth, which is so often the key to truly
Architect: Tatiana Bilbao S.C.
Design team: Tatiana Bilbao, Thorsten Englert, Damián Figueras, Adriana de Carvalho, Alex Cabrales, Marco Robles, Edgar Gonzalez
Construction Supervision: Tatiana Bilbao, Damián Figueras
Structural Engineering: MONCAD, Jorge Cadena
Hydraulic Engineering: Hidrotecnicos S.A.
Electrical Engineering: Incoesa S.A.
Building Contractor: Cabrera & Asociados Arquitectos, Enrique Cabrera
Artists: Vigueta y Bovedilla (Marco Rountree y Rodolfo Diaz), Cynthia Gutierrez
Landscape: TOA, Emiliano Garcia WITH Paisage Tony Rodea
Client: Vivian Charpenel
Total Floor Area: 298 m2
Cost: € 141,000
Design Phase: 10/2009—04/2010
Construction Phase: 05/2010—12/2010