by Sunena V MajuSep 15, 2022
Distilled and extracted from the fermented heart of the agave plant - once sacred to Aztec and other Mesoamerican cultures - mezcal is a spirit that has profound connections to the region of Oaxaca in Mexico, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of its production. Along with the global popularity of its most well-known variant (tequila), the consumption of the liquor has deep-rooted traditions within Oaxaca. Within this region, Mexican architect Alejandro D'Acosta has designed and realised Casa Silencio, a ceremonial space and resort dedicated to the production and appreciation of the beverage for artisanal mezcal brand, Mezcal El Silencio. Situated on the outskirts of the town of Xaaga near Mitla - a prominent archaeological site with influences from Mexico’s Zapotec and Mixtec communities - the project features an assortment of breathtaking guest suites presented as unique environments to partake in the tradition of mezcal.
Developed as a celebration of indigenous building traditions and culture, Casa Silencio is inspired by ancient distilleries of yore, emerging from the earth with a naturalistic palette that honours the spirit of the El Silencio brand. Crowned by angled roofs, rammed earth walls built by BASE Bioarquitectura rise up from the landscape, to connect the structure to its contextual origins and the scenery around it. As stated by the architects in an official release, “Its connection is made in two scales: a micro-scale with its immediate and specific surroundings, while on a macro-scale it connects with the cosmos, as in ancient times.”
A sculptural canopy made of intersecting members projects from the main entrance, reminiscent of traditional huts. Alternating windows of glass and wooden louvres impart transparency and a sense of rhythm to the front façade design. This porch area leads into a vast hall for dégustation at the heart of the complex. Beyond this zone is a clearing dressed in concrete and stone, with a striking oculus-like opening punctuating the roof, opening up to embrace the sky.
The spatial layout of the hospitality design project is split up into three wings: the central one housing spaces for fermentation, distillation, and processing of the liquor, flanked by blocks on either side that contain the guest rooms. Varying noticeably in size and amenities, some rooms host fireplaces and are spread out over two levels. Alternatively, they feature luxurious bathrooms with walk-in showers and monolithic stone sinks. One among their number even accommodates a translucent mosaic wall consisting of recycled El Silencio bottles.
“Every room is an experience, much like the rest of Casa Silencio,” mentions the brand in an official statement. They add, “Accents include burnt wood furnishings, distressed leather touches, artisanal candles, hand-woven wool rugs, velvet upholstery, and copper lamps - produced in partnership with local artisans, craftspeople and emerging artists.” Strong emphasis was given to the relationships between interior spaces and the movements of the sun and moon, encouraging guests to engage with nature and the cosmos. Geometric, cruciform voids interject the built forms as communal areas, to forge dialogues between inhabitants and the exterior environment.
Inside the complex, subtle hints in the textures of beverage maturation casks are displayed in the diagonal wooden beams that intersect along the ceiling and the raw, worn furniture made from stone and volcanic rock. Essentially, the spaces form a stimulating journey for the senses, composed of the smell of earthen walls, the touch of wood and rock, the sights of art and design, and the taste of mezcal while immersed in the sounds of nature. The interior design scheme was developed by Martina D’Acosta, who derived inspiration from the traditional aesthetics of Mexican craftsmen who work with wood, leather, stone, brass, textile, and clay pottery. These influences have been channelled through materials and forms that evoke the processes involved in the production of mezcal.
Great care was taken throughout the design and construction stages to ensure minimal wastage of materials and maximum reuse. For instance, the earth that constitutes the walls was obtained during the excavation conducted for the foundation. Compact blocks were made from this raw material with the aid of local clay, sand, and a binding agent. The metallic formwork used for casting is reusable - eliminating the need for disposing of any wooden framing. Platforms for support were recycled in the ceilings alongside beams used to create the bespoke furniture that decorates the spaces of Casa Silencio.
Envisioned as a point of convergence for contrasting eras and attitudes, Casa Silencio gently imposes itself into its surroundings, in harmony with nature, and the traditions it espouses. Embodying D’Acosta’s distinctive style that is rooted in contextually-sensitive sustainable design, the project has been imbued with a character almost resembling that of a hallowed space - a fitting tribute to the unique historical customs associated with mezcal, funnelled through the lens of rustic luxury and modern sensibilities.
Name: Casa Silencio
Location: Xaaga, Oaxaca, Mexico
Client: Mezcal El Silencio
Area: 3000 sqm
Architect: Alejandro D’Acosta
Interior and product design: Martina D’Acosta
Landscape design: Alejandro D’Acosta
Construction: Rafael Cortes
Bio construction and design: BASE Bioarquitectura
Year of completion: 2021