A home in the Mexican desert goes beyond just responding to the landscape, instead forming an integral part of it.
Set in the Mexican state of Guanajuato in an area known as the ‘high desert’, Casa Enso II required a deep understanding of the landscape and its arid climate. Based in the neighbouring state of Michoacán and having already completed a number of projects in the region, HW Studio Arquitectos came equipped with this understanding, allowing them to deliver a home that not only embraces its surroundings but also offers protection against them.
As a natural continuation of the ground beneath it, HW Studio Arquitectos chose to construct Casa Enso II out of a locally sourced limestone, a material deeply rooted in the architecture of Guanajuato, favoured by architects and builders for centuries – not just for its likeness to the earth, but also for its ability to regulate temperatures by absorbing heat during the day and slowly releasing it at night. “We wanted to find a stone that was the same colour as the earth to give the impression of the architecture emerging from the ground,” HW Studio Arquitectos founder Rogelio Vallejo Bores reveals. “The house appears as though it has been there a very long time; a ruin of sorts – something not at all alien to the landscape.”
The home is separated into four parts and divided by a central cross shaped by four limestone-lined passages. The passages offer relief from the heat by casting shadows transporting breezes.
Travertine was selected for the floors for its tonal similarities to the earth, while steel was chosen for the roof’s exterior for its ability to oxidise and produce a colour very similar to the bark of the huisache – trees typical of the area. “We only chose materials that strengthened the dialogue between the architecture and the environment,” Rogelio says, which explains why only a small selection of materials were used.
The decision to separate the home into four parts – one to greet visitors upon their arrival, one to accommodate the owner’s cars, one to accommodate the main living and private spaces, and one to accommodate the office – was made for different reasons, one being that the cross that now divides the spaces, shaped by four limestone-lined passages, offers relief from the heat by casting shadows and transporting breezes.
The interior palette is similar to the exterior to establish visual continuity and connect to the landscape.
While the spaces are separate, they are not disparate from one another, working together to make the experience of the home as seamless as possible so that the landscape can remain the focus throughout. “The dispersion of the spaces is intended to bring you closer to the earth, the air and the mountains, as if the building were an ancient monastery, framing the landscape but at the same time forming a natural part of it,” Rogelio says.
“Upon the home’s completion, the owners very quickly made it their own, almost as if they had lived there their whole lives,” Rogelio says. “As a designer, this fills me with a great sense of accomplishment, knowing that I’ve gifted them with a place they can form an emotional bond with.”
This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 49: Force of Nature.
Frameless, floor-to-ceiling glazing protects the indoor spaces while integrating them with the outdoor spaces.
“The house appears as though it has been there a very long time – a ruin of sorts – something not at all alien to the landscape.”
– Rogelio Vallejo Bores
Casa Enso II is constructed out of locally-sourced limestone in the colour of the earth, rooting the architecture in the landscape. Similarly, steel was chosen for the roof’s exterior for its ability to oxidise and produce a colour similar to the bark of the huisache trees.