On a weekend in June, my wonderful friends Adriana and Luca invited me to the weekend home of the Salas family. Like many middle-class Mexicans, their parents own a weekend home near Mexico City. To escape the city, Luca and his parents have regularly been driving the two-hour journey to Valle del Bravo for over thirty years.
After we drove through a small village we reached a large reddish brown surrounding wall with a wooden gate. What awaited me behind these walls far exceeded my expectations. An overwhelming variety of plants and a whole group of dogs welcomes the guest. The entire property spreads over more than seven hectares and offers a magnificent view of the lake of Valle del Bravo. The site is characterized by an ensemble consisting of a traditional country estate originally from the 17thcentury, called «hacienda», buildings from the 1990s, a horse stable and the modern extension of the architects TEN Arquitectos Estudio.
Existing hacienda with agaves in the garden
The Salas family has planted a variety of agaves according to the original use of the hacienda, the production of Maguey Agave fibers. Surrounded by agaves and with a courtyard, in which a large collection of cactus stands, the hacienda is really rooted in its surroundings and in Mexico. Over the years, the owners, along with the architect Guillermo de la Cajiga, considered an expert on traditional and natural building materials in Mexico, renovated the partially dilapidated hacienda and restored it to its original glory. Distributed in the garden are various works of art of friends of the family. A work of art placed in front of the building ensemble shines white on the green meadow. Almost like the building just behind it.
Annex designed by the architects Enrique Norten and Bernardo Gomez Pimienta
Enrique Norten and Bernardo Gomez-Pimienta designed in their at that point jointly managed architecture office TEN Arquitectos Estudio the guesthouse for the graphic designers Tullia and Ricardo Salas, which was completed in 2001. At first, the annex did not convince me. After two days, however, I realized that it is like one of those pieces of music that you find only moderately good at the first listening. After a lot of listening you then fall a bit in love with the music. It was the wish of the graphic designers that the typology of the house follows the hacienda, but is independent in expression. The guest house is fully glazed to the rear meadow so that the guest can observe the nature in the interior. Two red-brown surrounding walls form a semi-enclosed courtyard and protect against insight. The lightness of this facade creates a fascinating contrast to the plastered existing context with its few openings. As an integrative element between new and old, the architects used arched clay tiles for the canopies, which may seem a bit unfitting. A narrow window band to the entrance situation suggests the influence of modern Bauhaus. In its setting the annex creates a new entrance situation and forms the opposite to the gable side of the former stable of the hacienda. On two floors TEN Arquitectos Estudio created eight spacious guest rooms. At the top, guestscan benefit from a rooftop terrace. The upper rooms are accessed through a access balcony/arcade. Visually, this forms a continuity to the arcade of the old hacienda. The warm radiance of the wooden floor also allows the corridor to merge with the warm colours of the existing buildings. Standing in the courtyard, the luminous white is the dominant colour of the annex. A wall with a long horizontal cut conceals the interior courtyard facade of the extension. The white wall becomes a sculpture and an antagonist of the annex. The two-dimensional effect of the wall with its precisely set incision suggests that the graphic designers were involved in designing the house.
The property of the Salas family in Valle del Bravo is fabulous and a wonderful place to recover from the noisy capital. Likely every guest leaves the guesthouse of TEN Arquitectos Estudio content and relaxed.