Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Santa María Housing Development in Valle de Bravo, Mexico by Hierve
December 5th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Hierve
Santa Maria is a housing development located in a historic protected site in the heart of Valle de Bravo, a small colonial city dating from 1530, which is 2 hours away from Mexico City. This historic town has a strong physical context and is found in the outskirts of a man-made lake. Our site is located a hundred yards from the church of Santa Maria Ahuacatlan, a colonial church that dates back to the XVI century.
The project was conceived as a weekend retreat from Mexico City´s busy lifestyle and it includes 9 town houses and some amenities that provide an almost hotel-like experience. The overall footage of the project is 2,433.00 sq. mts. and each of the town houses range between 168.00 and 251.00 sq. mts.
When confronted with such a beautiful and restricted context, we could do nothing but respect it, trying to bring the most out of it by handling the physical aspects of the project with care. Most of this aspects were given to us as regulations by the local authority: the materials involved, the heights, the relationship with other buildings, the general layout, sizes and materials of doors, windows, etc.
From the very early stages of design, we tried to make a strong connection with the site by responding to its topography, to the existing vegetation, to the views of the lake, to our neighboring buildings, to the width of the streets, etc. Also we tried to make a more conceptual connection by incorporating the flavor of the rich natural and rural landscape surrounding Valle de Bravo. That´s why we decided to incorporate long trenches all along the project and fill them with natural river stones and vegetation.
We sought out for the spirit and aspirations of the place, trying to bring them to their next stage of evolution, where the new structure respectfully talks about the past, is firmly rooted in the present and gives a sense of direction for the future. Maybe that´s why this project constantly tries to be physically anchored to the ground and at the same time tries to float and fly away in the sky.
The main spatial configuration of the project consists on placing volumes along the two streets that confine the site (which is a local regulation), and by placing the houses in an L shape. By this, we could take advantage of the orientation and the views, and at the same time we were able to generate a pool area (in the sense of a main patio), just like in the traditional houses found in downtown Valle de Bravo.
The general layout of the project includes two main levels:
The lower one includes the entrance, parking space, security guard room, garbage room, a small service cafeteria, concierge room, accounting room, 36 small cellars, laundry, service bathrooms and maintenance rooms.
The upper level includes a self contained corridor (in L shape) that runs all along the houses. The purpose of this corridor is to become a buffer between the 9 houses and the pool area. The pool area works both as an open and a contained space, having a sense of privacy towards the houses, but opening up to the surrounding landscape. This area includes a wooden deck, a jacuzzi, two pools, a space for making fires and a small garden. At the very end of the self contained corridor, there is a small patio that brings light and calm to a yoga studio and a massage room.
We were careful so that every house could enjoy privacy and at the same time could open itself up to the beautiful surroundings. All bedrooms have a considerable lower height than the living rooms, that is because it is more efficient to heat such spaces and because we wanted to bring a sense of warmth, protection and coziness from the cold and wet outdoor environment.
The lower floor of each house (except house number 5), includes a small lobby, 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms.The upper floor of each house takes advantage of the height regulation, bringing up an expansive space that offers great views towards the lake and the surroundings. On this floor there is an open kitchen, living room, a private terrace, a small bathroom and a laundry closet.
The starting point for choosing the materials came from a regulation that considers that all the exterior walls should have a white plaster finish. Having such a neutral and beautiful background, we decided to combine it with two more materials: natural stone and solid wood. So all around the project (on the exterior areas and on the interior ones), there is white plaster, red burn plaster (bathrooms), solid wood and natural grey stone. It was really important for us that such materials were completely natural, because we wanted to infuse a natural, non urban experience.
Another important aspect of the project were the windows and doors. From the very early stages of design, we were willing to use solid surfaces of wood on the facades. So for example, the bedroom windows on the first floor, have movable solid panels of wood in the inside. These are used as blinds during the day and as temperature insulators at night. This kind of solution was commonly used long time ago in colonial houses.
All along the design process we tried to imbue the project with a sense of calmness, neutrality, openness, privacy and contact with the surrounding landscape and cityscape. Living in a city like Mexico City makes many people feel the urge to reconnect with nature, history and with themselves. We really hope that with this project we can help some people achieve that goal.