The house is situated in the City of Oaxaca and it is located within the City center’s main quadrant. The site was originally occupied by a summer house from the 1930’s with no historic or architectural value. In demolishing this structure, many of the materials and ‘parts’ such as solid wood doors, bathroom sinks, glass mirrors, brick and even some furniture were recycled and reused in the new project. The Pool was preserved and restored and the house was built around it.
The dramatic elevation changes from the North and South boundaries of the property resulted in a project that was cantilevered, raised and levelled in relation to the existing site conditions. This created opportunities to introduce passive cooling strategies throughout the house. Such as thermal mass and cross natural ventilation.
The Project is divided into three indoor program parts: The Back Wing, The Front Wing and The Low Quarters. As well as three outdoor program spaces: The Front, Back and Lower Gardens. The Back wing is oriented East-West and houses all the private spaces (bedrooms, bathrooms, walking closets). It is raised around 2’ 6” to allow the north wind to cool down the slab at night and through radiation to lower the temperatures of the bedrooms eliminating the need of fans or air conditioning. All the Back Wing rooms were designed with large glass openings towards the back and front yards to allow cross ventilation while capturing the predominant winds that are coming from the southeast. The orientation of the wing also responds to the idea of creating a private zone for the family, the Back Garden. The Front Wing is oriented ‘North-South’ and contains all the public spaces (gallery, living, dining, studio, kitchen, playroom). Half of the wing sits on the ground and the other half is in cantilever. The Front Wing is oriented towards the southeast acting as a tube that brings the cool breeze from the southeast across all the spaces. Which in conjunction with the north side openings creates a constant airflow throughout the house. The Front and Back wings have a strong formal, visual and operational relationship to the Front Garden. The family’s intense social agenda comes to life in the confluency of those three spaces. The Back wing acts as a backdrop and an spectator, while the Front wing embraces the most public space of the house. The entrance hall is designed as a gallery space with zenithal light and around a central stair that connects the Upper and Lower ground floors, the middle landing is large and has become the ‘suite’ of their 3 dachshunds, Zaha, Beto and Bruce. The Low Quarters contain all the large format art storage, support rooms, general storage, mechanical and service functions as well a guest suite with independent access and its own private garden. This area is buried underneath the area of the front wing which is in direct contact with the ground and acts a as a cooling chamber for the upper functions.
The House had to be built in 6 months with a very limited budget. Therefore the use of steel was preferred for all the framing while using concrete panel infills and cast in place concrete for foundation and back of the house spaces. All the glazing systems are single panes suspended from the ceilings without the need of aluminum framing. The effect when fully open is not only positive in terms of comfort but also in blurring the boundaries between private and public space. When the house is open it provokes the feeling of a ‘beach house’, the breeze, the noise, the smells, the music, the visual richness and eclecticism of the art collection all blend in one continuous space. The Living and Dining spaces are visually and physically connected to the main garden through a 8 meter fully collapsible glass wall.
Landscaping is predominantly based on cactuses and other indigenous species that require minimum to non-maintenance. The existing trees (Avocado and Lime) have been preserved in their original locations. A small farming garden outside of the kitchen provides for Chile, Tomato, Lettuce, Radish and some condiments. Exterior walking surfaces are covered by grass, gravel and porous pavers. A large rainwater cistern was integrated in the Low Quarters as the byproduct of adapting the program to the site conditions which collects all the water that is consumed by gardening, showers, toilets and sinks throughout the year by the 5M family and their guests.