From facia to form, Pensamientos Residencial uses voids to enliven housing

Designed by Espacio 18 Arquitectura, the structure in Oaxaca, Mexico, adapts principles of Mexican architecture to linear volumes, proposing fresh paradigms in social row housing.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Jul 27, 2022

Irrespective of a private or public developer, the social ramifications of housing as a distinct architectural typology are far reaching and extend to a microcosmic as well as macrocosmic scale, ranging from influencing the economic and social fibre of a family or an individual, to the built character of an entire street, community, or even a small urban nexus. In a post-pandemic age, these ramifications and the realm of social housing stand at an unprecedented albeit important juncture. Even while this period sees the rise of the digital nomad who willfully moves away from ownership, the need for a safe haven and a hybrid realm between work and refuge has also been concreted during this period. While housing for the dynamic young professional has to tackle with this dichotomy, it also has to address the droves of homeless created during the pandemic. In response to these stimuli, the NEXT in housing stands to be flexible, dynamic, and more bespoke, more individualised. What the Pensamientios Residencial project in Oaxaca, Mexico, proposes is an interesting addition to this conversation, a middle ground, and a zoomed-in, near modular solution, without necessarily a 'Bokanovskification' of these structures. With its distinctly linear, 'clean' form, the conjoined structure, comprising four residential units, emerges as a dignified intervention in the realm of social housing with well defined architectural sensibilities.

  • The housing cluster comprises four residences arranged linearly | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The housing cluster comprises four residences arranged linearly Image: Camila Cossio
  • The houses’ front elevation and facia are enlivened by a combination of voids and dramatic cubical protrusions | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The houses’ front elevation and facia are enlivened by a combination of voids and dramatic cubical protrusions Image: Camila Cossio
  • The four units are conjoined but different in overall appearance, adding dynamicity to the streetscape | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The four units are conjoined but different in overall appearance, adding dynamicity to the streetscape Image: Camila Cossio
  • The structural outlook of the houses remains entirely linear  to impart a clean, monolithic look | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The structural outlook of the houses remains entirely linear to impart a clean, monolithic look Image: Camila Cossio

The urban exodus to suburbia is another factor that impinges upon this phenomenon and is sought to be addressed by Pensamientos. Located in Colonia Reforma along the suburbs of Oaxaca, the project seeks to further address the astronomical increase in land prices in the region, and the resultant gentrification of urban fringes, a direct result of city centres cramming up and locals living on the outskirts. The team of architects and designers at Espacio 18 Arquitectura, also located in Oaxaca, thus approached the project with an aim to redensify the area, something visible in the structure's more solid vestiture, only dotted with perforations to allude to a sense of lightness, as the warm light from the interiors filters through these at dusk.

  • Each of the units has a large patio near the entrance abutted by high rise walls to give the impression of a cutout in the mass of the house | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    Each of the units has a large patio near the entrance abutted by high rise walls to give the impression of a cutout in the mass of the house Image: Camila Cossio
  • A dramatic scooping out of similar cuboidal masses from the house’s overall forms creates spaces for recreation and interaction | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    A dramatic scooping out of similar cuboidal masses from the house’s overall forms creates spaces for recreation and interaction Image: Camila Cossio
  • The voids, covered and uncovered, view from the connected roofs of the houses | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The voids, covered and uncovered, view from the connected roofs of the houses Image: Camila Cossio
  • The terraces have a relatively open layout with only services and the main bedroom of the house | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The terraces have a relatively open layout with only services and the main bedroom of the house Image: Camila Cossio

Larger, more functional voids occur in the mass of the house but remain oblivious to the street beside. Thoughtful interventions like these that ensure privacy as well as facilitate interaction, discovery, and a garbed openness further the project's pedagogy of exploring what may be achieved at the junction of design and commerce, especially since the project is commissioned by a real estate agency.

  • The house’s minimally landscaped central courtyard | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The house’s minimally landscaped central courtyard Image: Camila Cossio
  • The courtyards mimic a similar scooped out volume as the front patio with the high rise walls | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The courtyards mimic a similar scooped out volume as the front patio with the high rise walls Image: Camila Cossio
  • The voids and the relatively low rise forms of the units seek to reinvent typical notions of housing | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The voids and the relatively low rise forms of the units seek to reinvent typical notions of housing Image: Camila Cossio

Each of the residences, occupying 120 sq.m. of ground space, are planned in a cascading hierarchy of 'publicness' of spaces from bottom to top, summing up to about 245 - 275 sq.m. of built up space. Cuboidal masses in the form of external patios and internal courts are scooped out from the morphology of each unit, forming sunlit, ventilated places of solitude and reflection. These voids, carved on every level of the house, serve as the defining elements of the design, unifying the houses with each other, while forming succinct transition zones between the interiors of the house and its exteriors along different avenues.

  • The courtyards also connect the hierarchy of spaces within the house | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    The courtyards also connect the hierarchy of spaces within the house Image: Camila Cossio
  • Differentially placed voids lead to dramatic influxes of light within the house | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    Differentially placed voids lead to dramatic influxes of light within the house Image: Camila Cossio

While the ground floor comprises an entirely social area that can easily spill over into these voids, the first floor comprises a relatively private distribution of spaces with the TV room and study. The second floor features a relatively open, less crowded plan, with the main bedroom and some services. High rise walls, unyielding, often even imposing, guard the voids like sentinels while providing a necessary sense of enclosure that facilitates dramatic influxes of light.

  • Pensamientos Residencial: Floor plans | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    Pensamientos Residencial: Floor plans Image: Courtesy of Espacio 18 Arquitectura
  • Pensamientos Residencial: Front elevation | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    Pensamientos Residencial: Front elevation Image: Courtesy of Espacio 18 Arquitectura
  • Pensamientos Residencial: Section through the voids | Pensamientos Residencial | Espacio 18 Arquitectura | STIRworld
    Pensamientos Residencial: Section through the voids Image: Courtesy of Espacio 18 Arquitectura

Both the high walls and the voids remain remarkably and characteristically ruminative and reminiscent of modern Mexican architecture. The materiality of the structure and interiors leans towards neutrality in tone and starkness, complementing the absolute, bare volumes and tall planes of the house. Paste finishes on the outside along with wood from the Oaxaca coast, including from the coastal village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, work together with steel and volcanic stones to produce an aesthetic that is at the same time very definitive of a certain character that it seeks to assume, while also being open to personalisation by the user. The bareness lends itself to purpose and style, becomes a canvas as much as a statement, just as solidity and stereotomy harness into a still monolithic sanctuary.

Project Details

Name: Pensamientos Residencial
Location: Oaxaca, México
Architects: Espacio 18 Arquitectura
Building area: 1,200 sq.m.
Interior Design: Espacio 18 Arquitectura, Monse López, Marisela López
Builders: Espacio 18 Arquitectura
Landscape: Espacio 18 Arquitectura
Architects in charge: Espacio 18 Arquitectura, Sonia Morales, Andrea Rodríguez
Carpentry: Orvesa y diseño
Engineer: José Luis Contreras Pisson + LM Estructuras

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