Residential complex in Mexico

By redefining the relationship between public and private spheres, this project is based on the combination of spaces both intimate and open.

Halfway between a home and a hotel, an apartment and a villa, the project by Hierve-Diseñería includes nine dwellings and a series of communal spaces that open up to a central courtyard. The work, closely linked to the local buildings that characterize the charming town of Santa María in the Valle de Bravo, integrates esplanades, terraces and courtyards in an ambience similar to a boutique hotel as well as to that of a convent.

Valle de Bravo, a two-hour drive from Mexico City, is a weekend country retreat for one of the largest cities in the world, and also thanks to its lake, a major water reserve in the region. Together with San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca, it is one of the few historical places in the country with regulations on protecting the local setting, where exemplary traditional architecture can be found. The use of tiled gabled roofs, white walls, wood and stone, define the architecture of Valle de Bravo, at once timeless and silent.

The first modern attempts in this setting—the houses made in the nineties by Alberto Kalach, Ten Arquitectos and BGP—represent the first examples of "negotiation" between the restrictions based on local tradition and the desire for contemporary, cosmopolitan architecture. Thus, a mixture was created out of the combination of bare concrete, glass, open spaces, simply-shaped metalwork along with tiles, brick and rustic wood beams. While these proposals represented a new approach to the "Mexican house" by updating forms while using the same materials, seeking greater transparency and lightness, there was no attempt to redefine the concept of home or the way of occupying a place used intermittently, mainly on weekends. They were conceived as single-family homes sheltered as much as possible from the neighbors, removing them from the urban context in an attempt to get closer to nature.

The bold central location of the Hierve-Diseñería project—within the historical quarter—and the idea of opening onto itself, as well as the new community living approach it creates, generate a completely different concept. The houses, which range from 168 to 250 square meters, arranged in an L-shaped row, open out onto a communal space, featuring the pool area and terrace. The corner plot is used to close the complex off from the street with the construction of a low volume—where parking and services are located—and a larger one composed of one of the arms of the row of houses, leaving only small windows facing the street and the main entrance, which leads to the courtyard through a monumental staircase.
The primary stairway leading to the entrance to the complex. The volumes that ring the lot are compact
The primary stairway leading to the entrance to the complex. The volumes that ring the lot are compact
Located a block away from the colonial Santa María Ahuacatlán church, which dates back to the sixteenth century, and two blocks away from the lake, the project is found in the meeting point between its condition as a profoundly urban space imbued in its context and another freer space opening to the lake and the mountains. The spatial layout consisted of placing a patio/corridor running along the houses that acts as a buffer space between the dwellings and pool areas where the central courtyard is located. A private patio at the end of the corridor brings light and tranquility into a space destined for yoga and a massage room area.

One of the inner courtyards
One of the inner courtyards
The houses are based on the distinction between the private areas (bedrooms) located on the ground floor, designed to generate greater intimacy, and the public areas on the top floor, opened to face the views by means of a terrace that extends the living and dinning area. Throughout the entire project, only four materials are used: white walls, rust-red walls (for baseboards and bathrooms), wood planks (for doors, floors and accents) and stone (pebbles and gray slate). The predominance of heavy walls, simple forms and a serene ambience—a legacy of the architecture of Luis Barragán—contrasts with the use of long ditches overflowing with pebbles and wild vegetation that accentuate the stage-like nature of the project. Fernanda Canales
Throughout the entire project, only four materials are used: white walls, rust-red walls (for baseboards and bathrooms), wood planks (for doors, floors and accents) and stone (pebbles and gray slate).
The complex seen from the colonial Santa María Ahuacatlán church
The complex seen from the colonial Santa María Ahuacatlán church
Santa María, Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Design: Hierve-Diseñería
Design team: Alejandro Villarreal (partner), Andrés Casares (project architect); Sugey Ramirez, Gabriela Rosas, Jesús Ramirez, Denisse Novelo and Arturo García Crespo (collaborators)
Consultants: Moncad (structural engineering), M3 Ingeniería Integral (mechanical engineering), Ambiente Arquitectos (landscape design), LLC Iluminación (lighting), Isabel Maldonado (interior design), Maderaje Arquitectónico (carpentry)
Client: Inmobiliaria Sanmo SA de CV
Contractor: Zimbra
Site area: 2.509,64 smq
Total floor area: 2.269 smq
Project phase : 2007-2009
Construction phase: 2008-2010
Cost: $2,700,000
Photography: Fernando Cordero, Alejandro Villarreal
The articulation of the open spaces with Santa María Ahuacatlán church in the background
The articulation of the open spaces with Santa María Ahuacatlán church in the background
Fernanda Canales (México, 1974) received her architectural degree awarded with honours from the Universidad Iberoamericana in México City (1997) with an MA from the UPC in Barcelona (2001), currently completing a PHD in the ETSAM at Madrid. She has developed her independent practice of architecture and research based in Mexico City. Her office is currently engaged in both public and private projects, where she has won several competitions, including the new CEDIM Campus in Monterrey as well as the competition for a theater complex in Guadalajara.
All nine rooms face the swimming pool terrace
All nine rooms face the swimming pool terrace
The living rooms of the apartments are enlarged by patios towards the court
The living rooms of the apartments are enlarged by patios towards the court

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