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Casa del Alma in Oaxaca unfolds as a symphony in concrete

Designed by Espacio 18 Arquitectura, the residence is infused with light-bathed minimalism, journeying through concrete volumes, striking a balance between public and private spaces.

by Pooja Suresh HollannavarPublished on : May 16, 2023

There are a few defining features of a good home, and comfort sits at the top of that list. With comfort in a home being a sum of its parts, it takes synchronous ventilation, light, accessibility, and ease of maintenance to create a home that is truly comfortable. Defined by light and minimalist lines, Casa del Alma is one such home, perched on a hillside in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. The 460 sqm private residence is designed by Mexican design studio Espacio 18 Arquitectura, with the residential architecture exemplifying true contemporary design. The house is a reflection of the predominant architectural style of the region and incorporates large and well ventilated spaces with openings focussed on city views.

With Casa del Alma, the Sonia Morales led studio has created a residential design that is perfectly catered to its habitants needs. Designed for an elderly person, the environment is easy to navigate and void of too many levels, with the residence functioning primarily on one level as it strategically combines private spaces with public spaces for social gatherings.

Casa del Alma is perched on a hillside on Oaxaca, Mexico | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
Casa del Alma is perched on a hillside on Oaxaca, Mexico Image: César Béjar

Hence, despite being accessed by a visually grand set of stairs, the two blocks of the house are essentially on a single level. While the steps themselves are floating concrete slabs that create filtered beams of light, the blocks on either side of the staircase function as separate public and private zones. "Understanding the context, we generate two concrete volumes that contain the architectural program, the parallelepipeds like two rocks emerging from the ground, as if they wanted to belong to the mountain, adapting to its naturalness,” shares the studio. The stairs, here, act as both the functional and visual focal point. The use of concrete slabs instead of standard stairs further creates visual interest and lends depth to the stairwell. The gaps in the slabs let in natural light that changes through the day, creating a subtly dynamic space.

The entrance staircase | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
The entrance staircase with two volumes on either side; the floating concrete slabs let in beams of light Image: César Béjar

One concrete volume, that breaks into the public side, tilts further into the hillside, entertaining service areas along with the kitchen, dining area, and living spaces while the private zone contains the two ensuite bedrooms. In addition to facilitating the segregation of public and private, the two volumes of the house also encourage cross-ventilation—creating spaces that are large, airy, and bathed in natural light. This is especially important, given the sub-tropical climate of Oaxaca.

  • The living area | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The living area Image: César Béjar
  • The kitchen and dining area | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The kitchen and dining area Image: César Béjar

Another defining feature of the residence is the use a consistent material palette—the poured-in-place concrete structure features polished concrete floors with exposed aggregate throughout. The potentially overwhelming concrete is offset by the calculated use of glass and metal. Large rectilinear skylights break the monotony of repetitive concrete beams in bathrooms and circulation spaces. “Through vertical subtractions, we work with light creating domes, beams and windows, the light expands through the space, bathes the walls and show us the passage of time,” relays the studio.

(Left) Bathroom with ample natural light (Right) Large skylights let in ample natural light | STIRworld
(Left) Bathroom with ample natural light (Right) Large skylights let in ample natural light Image: César Béjar

The spaces facing away from the hill enjoy floor to ceiling glass doors that function as a fourth wall, inviting the outside into the inside without the disruption of privacy. The glass is repeated in the concrete architecture in the form of elegant railings to the linear balconies. The house also boasts a terrace with an outdoor kitchen and spectacular views, with the parking and mechanical rooms hidden away, under the cantilevered concrete basement.

Balconies are lined with glass railings | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
Balconies are lined with glass railings Image: César Béjar

The interior design of the house is deliberately and thoughtfully kept simple and minimalist through the use of a muted colour palette coupled with glass and warm upholstery. The simple interiors of the house also emphasise structural lines, and these clean lines and rectangular shapes characterise the house. The cuboid blocks gain depth and personality with the lines of verandah railings, and wrap around the roofs. The concept of lines are once again reinforced in the rooftop kitchen with use of wooden planks for flooring. The repetition of lines throughout the house keeps the aesthetics of the house interesting without becoming overbearing. 

The outdoor kitchen on the terrace | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
The outdoor kitchen on the terrace Image: César Béjar

“The house is a space of peace, meeting, contemplation and at the same time a place for introspection in their daily lives,” explains the studio. The house is a concrete sculpture perfectly moulded for its habitants needs, creating an easy, serene, and heartwarming refuge for a former traveller. Shaped to sit perfectly on a hill, it is a considered house that reflects and responds to its surroundings.

  • The plan | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The plan Image: Courtesy of Espacio 18 Arquitectura
  • The section | Casa del Alma | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The section Image: Courtesy of Espacio 18 Arquitectura

Project Details

Name: Casa del Alma
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Area: 460 sqm
Year of completion: 2023
Design Firm: Espacio 18 Arquitectura
Design Team: Mario Ávila, Carla Osorio, Sonia Morales, Karina Flores, Paola Alavez, Marco Farias, Noemié Coquil
Carpentry: Orvesa y diseño
Engineer: LM Estructuras
Steel work: Alfredo y Ramon

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