A Luxury Home Where You’re Never Sure If Your Inside Or Out

This stone-walled home is visible over the tops of the trees surrounding Tepozteco mountain in in Mexico. Perched slightly above ground, the house was designed as an idyllic retirement home for a couple who wanted peace and privacy but also the option to entertain their extended friends and family when they wanted to.

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Casa Meztitla, designed by EDAA, spans 4,305sqft and seems to be both in harmony and in opposition with the surrounding national parkland. EDAA chose volcanic stone to create the walls in order to blend in with the serrated grey palette of the mountain scenery and within this fortress designed courtyards, rooftop patios and large, pivoting glass doors.

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The house feels rather contradictory – built low to the ground in order to stay partially covered by the canopy of trees, seems to also feel imposing and tall once inside. The same clashing idea applies to the materials used to build the house, the industrial aesthetics and undeniably manmade feel is also cut with the natural aging process of the resources. As the house gets older, its relationship with it’s natural surroundings will strengthen, it is a design which will grow into it’s setting while it’s setting simultaneously grows around it.

“I wanted this to be a house that would never close itself, that would be constantly opened and in touch with nature,” lead architect, Luis Garcia, commented in an interview. This concept is clear to see in the way the house connects with itself in a circumventory style, large patios connecting rooms and doors concertinaing inward to blur the boundaries between indoor and out.

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Even within the stone courtyards, plants pick up on the colours of the trees outside the complex, while the dark clay of the pots they are planted in again draws on the palette of the natural earth.

We spoke to architect in charge, Luis Garcia, about briefs, balance and building.

The Plus: What was the brief for this project?
Luis Garcia:
In the realm of leisure, architecture can play a double-edged role. The ultimate situation would be when architecture could not only interpret the context, but also reinterpret and maximize its sensorial experience. Architecture would then be a catalyst, a dramatizer.

Casa Meztitla is an intervention of a natural scenario. It showcases the luxurious value of leisure, the tropical weather, the intense sunlight, the smells of nature, the over 500 year-old landscaped terraces and the ever-present rock mountain: El Tepozteco. It is context in itself. The house, built out of rough stone, crawls low under the trees, aligned with the vegetated-covered stone slopes. It is the creation of pure space within the natural space (Paz, O., 1987). It has an introverted living yet is continually open to its surroundings. Only two elements reveal its existence to the outside world: the colorful bougainvillea flowers showing randomly through the trees’ dense foliage, which mark the plot’s perimeter; and the massive and monolithic white box that emerges through the treetops.

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TP: How did you balance functionality and design?
I do not think of them as “if´s”, meaning that if there is too much focus on design then there is less function, or vice versa. I think of them as aims and results of the design process: we design for function, for nature, for economy, for contemplation, for geometry, etc.

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TP: What challenges did you come across during the process?
Being aware of the responsibility that implies intervening a natural scenario: aesthetic wise, resource wise… ecological wise!
The plot area was very much in its natural condition when the house was designed, so the concern was to build a singular experience, something that is worth disturbing nature while contributing to appreciate it. It is somehow a dialectic relationship between the architecture and nature: both complement each other while being intruders, threatening each other.
In that sense, the sensorial experience of the house –being the architecture itself blended into its surroundings- is the aesthetic approach of the project, and the main challenge.

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TP: What is your favourite aspect of the design?
I have two favourite features. First, the never-ending feeling of always being in touch with nature, the house never keeps to itself.
Second, the logical hydraulic system in which the house is based on: storm water provides the house with the potable water for drinking, cleaning and maintenance all year round. It is basically a whole hydraulic ecosystem in which storm-water, sand, rocks, irrigation canals, dirt, water plants, and fish, interact with the aid of gravity and two electrical pumps!
My favourite space is anywhere in-between the trees form where I can see the house hidden in nature.

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TP: What materials did you use mainly and why?
The construction materials are mineral and basic, locally provided and crafted: concrete for the foundations, basement, and main structural elements; volcanic rock and cement block for the walls; a mix of white cement and lime for plastering the white-coloured walls. Interior walls and ceilings are finished with a white cement and lime plaster; exposed polished concrete for the floors; pine wood and ply-wood for the carpentry finished with oil and wax; steel doors with tempered glass for rotatory doors. The furniture material selection is based on natural woods and light colour fabrics, steel, and polypropylene. There is great emphasis on using traditional tropical Mexican furniture such as hammocks, hammock rocking-chairs and wooden chairs. The reason for this simple and logical selection of materials throughout the project is for economic and contextual reasons, as for the client´s petition to have a house in a subtropical rainforest, which is easily maintained.

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TP: How is this project similar to your other builds?
Each project designed by EDAA deals with its particularities, so the approach towards any of them is similar, thus the ingredients lead the design strategies.

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Architect in charge: Luis Arturo García
Design team: Juan Hernández, Jahir Villanueva, Antonio Rivas, Ana Fernanda Rodríguez
Construction team: Hans Álvarez, Yolibel Allende
Status: Constructed
Typology: Single house
Constructed Area: 4,300 sqf (400 m2)
Location: Tepoztlán, México