Bare Charm

The Nakasone house by Mexican architects Escobedo Soliz surprises with Barragán moments. The buildings by Luis Barragán radiate an incomparable spatial magic. He accentuated colours, worked with raw building materials, played with lightness and heaviness and captured the light in different ways. The two young architects designed a house that is similarly subtle, authentic and consistently designed for the place and its inhabitant. The context, however, is quite different from that of the well-known residential houses of Barragán.

Luis Barragán - like most Mexican architects today - designed for the rich. However, Mrs. Nakasone, a retired teacher, does not belong to this class. Her property is located on the southern outskirts of Mexico City in a so-called informal settlement. In total, about 70 percent of the capital's population live in irregularly created self-construction areas. Because of their low incomes, they build informally, in other words beyond official planning and norms, and of course without an architect.

Pavel Escobedo and Andres Soliz, both in their early thirties, decided to dare to experiment and design a house with a very limited budget in this context. Instead of drawing a project planned in detail, they took advantage of the architectural freedom of the informal settlement - a building permit is of little interest here - and the very affordable work of the craftsmen to decide many things directly on the site.

Adaptability was also required in the building process. Originally, two single-family houses were planned as mirrored courtyard houses in a C-shape. During the construction work, the second party decided not to build their house. So now the small, two-storey house at the back of the elongated site benefits from a spacious front garden. Inside, everything revolves around the inner courtyard, which is also used as an extension of the living space due to the mild climate. Furthermore, the introverted design of the building protects it from the eyes of its closely positioned neighbours. The concave volume of the inner courtyard divides the cube into a narrow spine and two arms. In the narrow area, the access area and the adjoining rooms are located on both floors. The arms form the main rooms: on the ground floor the living and dining room, on the upper floor the two bedrooms.

Escobedo Soliz used local, inexpensive building materials and kept them visibly in their natural state: a structuring concrete skeleton is filled with polished bricks with a wide mortar joint. Pine wood, ochre-coloured fine window profiles and volcanic stone found on site complement the natural aesthetics. Inside and outside are consistently identical: an advantage of regional building without insulation. Bright blue bathrooms create a captivating contrast to the warm colours. The light flows partly directly and partly indirectly into the interiors and makes the surfaces glow.

An enchanting moment is created in the vestibule of the upper floor, where the light coming in through a skylight, the raw charm of the materials and the contrasting blue of the bathroom come together. The richness of simplicity is fascinating and creates a safe haven in the chaos of Mexico City.

«My house is my refuge, an emotional piece of architecture, not a cold piece of convenience» were Luis Barragán's words. The fact that these qualities can be achieved with a minimal budget is successfully demonstrated by the architects Escobedo Soliz in this project.


This text was published on werk, bauen + wohnen.

© LEARNING FROM MEXICO 2019 by Laure Nashed

 Die Beiträge von «learningfrommexico» entstehen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Schweizer Architekturzeitschrift werk, bauen + wohnen.