by Jerry ElengicalJan 04, 2023
The townhouse, a building form that is ubiquitous throughout most urban areas all over the globe, is often defined by the bounding walls that contain its residential design on either side. As development in major cities intensifies to meet housing demands, much sought after land near city centres is rapidly becoming more valuable, and plots that could previously host sizable dwellings are now being divided up to build more living units within the limited area available to them. In the historic downtown area of Mérida, in Mexico’s Yucatán region, an extreme case of this phenomenon was the subject of an intervention by Workshop, Diseño y Construcción, a firm based in the same city. Under the project’s scope, the partial shell of a townhouse with a story dating back nearly a century has undergone a metamorphosis through a renovation venture that has transformed it into a dainty oasis nestled into its neighbourhood.
Casa Lorena, as the project has been christened, has an understated pastel-toned exterior in light pink and blue. Its austere façade design concealing a world of detail and naturalistic inclinations hidden within, the limited ornamentation across its exterior is restricted to only a few cornices and trimmings decorating the first impression of the building. The architects note that only a small portion of the original site fell under the project’s bounds, as the actual plot had been divided multiple times since it was first built upon back in the early 20th century. What remained after these changes was an exceedingly narrow strip of land, a quarter of its original extent, measuring only 4.5 metres along its front edge—almost too short to entertain any hope of building on it.
Present at the home’s frontage, a small inset permits the provision of an access area. Here two circular light design fixtures illuminate the delicate pink shade of the front edifice on either side of the main entrance. Past the threshold, the high-ceilinged expanse of the living room, also coloured in tones of pink for continuity, features pasta tile flooring tying the interior design to its roots in Mexican architecture from the state of Yucatán.
Gracing the ceiling are the home’s original Decauville beams from France, which date back to the heyday of the henequén agribusiness era in the region. In effect, this along with other wooden beams in the building’s structural design harken back to the time of its initial completion where they were typically employed as construction members throughout the region’s traditional architecture. Vintage wooden furniture dresses the spatial composition, which boasts a height of five metres. By comparison, it is important to note that this exceeds the current width of the plot itself, speaking volumes of the designers’ choice to accentuate verticality rather than the width in every facet of the refurbishment project.
A quaint archway is the portal to the kitchen where a similar theme of pink wall finishes and pasta tile flooring is observed, with a white quartz island at its centre. The far wall of this zone has tempered glass doors affixed to the old wooden door frames utilised in the residence’s architecture. Besides flooding the space with sunlight, the doors also overlook an outdoor dining space and deck, which flows into a pool area. Within the layout, this body of water is for all intents and purposes, the main spatial partition between the semi-private block with the living and dining spaces at the front of the home, and the bedrooms and private areas at the rear.
Most of the paint and other finishes were stripped away from the walls in the outdoor, court-like space, leaving their bare stone materiality to speak of the wear-and-tear that has taken place during the building’s lifetime. The roof assembly capping this space uses Marseille roof clay tiles, reused from the original design. Supported by a wooden structure, which imparts an ambience reminiscent of a luxurious hacienda homestead, the weathered red textures of the tiles contrast the earthy tones of the stone, with pale blue floor tiles adding a cooler contrast to the composition. The sit-out space here has an almost rustic feel generated by the combination of the stone architecture and elegant furniture designs.
Chukum finishes with blue tints plaster the walls that enclose the pool, replete with planters which make the space come alive. The mini-garden that runs in tandem on the pool’s perimeter represents an extremely deft use of landscape design in a very confined space, with all manners of vegetation: from spreading palms to smaller deciduous trees, and finally, shrubs and other smaller plants that blend into the natural foliage beyond the site. Wedged into a bounding wall, the pool is quite compact—a necessity when thinking of the lack of available area. However, its role as the focal point of this terrace space is supplemented by hardscape elements such as a bed of minute pebbles with circular stepping stones, creating a playful atmosphere inside this calming sanctum which gives new meaning to the nature of a townhouse.
On one side, a staircase coated in a white cement finish, leads to the upper level of the home, which accommodates one of the two bedrooms in the plan. The other, located directly beneath the former bedroom, is separated from the pool by a wood-panelled deck. A more contemporary character is evident in this wing of the structure, even though the colour and material palettes have been kept quite similar with regard to the use of blue tones, wood finishes, and pasta tiles.
Tucked away behind its unassuming exterior, the real magic of Casa Lorena is in the fluid transitions between different spatial environments seen in its bounds. From the pastel-coloured volume of its living spaces to the rustic, natural terrace, and finally, the more refined contemporary design of the bedrooms, the home is every bit an urban oasis, an intimate little world, fully capable of transporting users back to the simplicity of the past while retaining its roots in the present.
Name: Casa Lorena
Location: Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
Year of Completion: 2021
Architect: Workshop, Diseño y Construcción
Lead Architects: Francisco Bernés Aranda y Fabián Gutiérrez Cetina
Project Team: Ing. Alejandro Bargas Cicero, Arq. Isabel Bargas Cicero, Arq. Francisco Bernés Aranda y Arq. Fabián Gutiérrez Cetina
Furniture: Artesano MX
Artwork: Galerista Yesenia Lope
- Concrete Architecture
- Contemporary Architecture
- Contextual Architecture
- Contextual Design
- Facade Design
- Furniture Design
- Geometric Design
- Interior Design
- Lighting Design
- Mexican Architect
- Mexican Architecture
- Modern Architecture
- Pool Design
- Residential Architecture
- Residential Building
- Residential Design
- wooden furniture