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Malinalco, in addition to being a city with a rich mythological and historical past, is also known to have one of the highest biodiversity in Mexico. Mauricio Ceballos x Architects' Casa Mague is a project that is a careful and sensitive architectural intervention that considers the environment and pre-Hispanic history of its location. The site was chosen for its unique micro-climate, large trees, and its proximity to an Aztec ceremonial carving on a mountainside. Casa Mague is a residential space that draws its concept from the Mesoamerican worldview. The project has three levels; the first is a mirror base that reflects the ground, and makes the house appear as if it were floating. The living spaces are located at the same level. And the natural outer cover is formed by the foliage of the trees.
The design and setting of the project are driven by Mexican architect Mauricio Ceballos' desire to construct a home that did not displace the existing nature. Despite the home's rectilinear plan, the experience of walking through the house is that of a meandering hike. Built as a single storey, ground floor structure, the house is made up of a series of flexible volumes that are segmented by open spaces including the main circulation, several terraces, and large community gathering areas.
In architecture there are certain base elements that one always assumes are a given - four walls, a floor and a ceiling. The fragmented layout of Casa Mague questions this assumption in subtle ways. The fragmented rectilinear plan sees four bedrooms located on the west of the project while the east consists of the living room, kitchen, studio and dining space. These two segments meet in the middle of the open-air living room, outdoor jacuzzi and fireplace. This is also the primary access to the building. Decked with a semi-covered pergola, the roof structure is not supported by walls, pillars or columns, instead, it is held up by a set of two staircases leading to nowhere. The space underneath these stairs is used as a storeroom. The form of the stairs is meant to resemble the Mesoamerican architecture of the ziggurats, many of which are visible in the area. It is an interesting detail that highlights the diversification of the elements of architecture beyond their canonical function.
In an attempt to be closer to nature, most of the spaces within the residential home are accessed through an open corridor or terraces. It is a detail that allows the indoors to become the outdoors and creates a lasting connection between nature and the residents. The corridor is largely open and acts as a guide that leads people across the whole structure. Towards the west, it leads to the four bedrooms each fitted with an ensuite. The segment of the corridor leading to the rooms features numerous potted plants or incorporates existing trees. One of the existing trees sits between the entrance of bedroom 4 and a solid wall of bedroom 3. All of the bedrooms have the option of opening out into the surrounding landscape, both physically and visually. Except for the south wall, all the external walls of the bedroom feature large glass fenestrations looking out into nature, while all the inward-facing walls are blank.
The central segment of Casa Mague isn't just an open-air entity. When one considers the typology of courtyard homes, one would observe how programmatically these courtyards act as a nexus from which the home bifurcates. While in this case the central open to air space is not defined as a courtyard it serves a similar function.
Leading away from the jacuzzi and living room is an open-air dining room with an attached utility counter. The eastern segment of the project consists of three large functions namely a TV room, a studio and a large dining and kitchen area. The TV room and studio share a single volume and have glass windows on both the north and south façade. This creates a visual connection through the space itself. Angled away from the main building is a unit that houses a large community kitchen and dining room. Detached from the central structure of the kitchen and dining unit is a large glass structure that resembles a greenhouse. Seating over 15 people the dining room is designed as a community space for all the occupants of the home.
The project's main feature relies on the idea of open living, and echos the allure of the Aztec structures, through its design and detail. Featuring natural and local materials such as wood, stone and chukum (ancient Mayan stucco), the structure has all the tenants of a sustainable design incorporated into its building strategy. By harvesting rainwater, water irrigation reuse, and reducing the structure's energy consumption through solar panels and sensors, the structure lowers its carbon footprint.
Name: Casa Mague
Location: Malinalco, Mexico
Area: 270 sqm
Year of completion: 2020
Architect: Mauricio Ceballos x Architects
Design team: Mauricio Ceballos, Francisco Vázquez, Marco Severino
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