Ludwig Godefroy-designed weekend home in Mexico is an open-to-sky fortress
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Ludwig Godefroy-designed weekend home in Mexico is an open-to-sky fortress

Architect Godefroy’s Zicatela House in Mexico's Oaxaca is a fresh take on introverted plan as this weekend home appears like a fort from the outside but poses an oasis on the inside.

by Meghna Mehta Sep 28, 2019

The design of the Zicatela House in Mexico is a result of an experiment with the typology of the house and how a design can re-innovate the way we live and function. A new methodology of positioning spaces, landscapes, entrances and foyers speaks volumes of how one can reimagine the experience of a home.

The Zicatela is a small weekend home located on the top of a hill in front of the Zicatela Beach, next to Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca. The house has been designed as an introverted plan with the primary purpose of providing the owner an opportunity to escape Mexico City to take a break from the urban life. The house has been built to provide the client a place to relax, while enjoying the beautiful scenes of the Mexican coast and the peaceful light of Oaxaca.

  • A concrete masterpiece by Ludwig Godefroy | Zicatela House| Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy | STIRworld
    A concrete masterpiece by Ludwig GodefroyImage Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • Courtyards connected through a semi-open space | Zicatela HouseMexico | Ludwig Godefroy | STIRworld
    Courtyards connected through a semi-open space Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • Stairs ascending from the roof to an amphitheatre | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy | STIRworld
    Stairs ascending from the roof to an amphitheatre Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • A bedroom with its opening to the pool | Zicatela HouseMexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    A bedroom with its opening to the pool Image Credit: Rory Gardiner

The design of the house responds to the dual landscape on either sides. On one side rests the beach with the sea in the background, while on the other side lie the mountains and agave fields, the plant from which mezcal and tequila are prepared. This project has a contrasting personality and existence of being a countryside house next to the sea, instead of a beach house, which would be the primary response of any architect, designer or owner.

The Zicatela House is based on this duality, the duality of its surroundings and that it is able to respond to the mountains and be protective as a fortress, while at the same time offer a widely open space; giving one the feeling of living outside in a courtyard, making the threshold between inside and outside disappear.

Designed with contemporary elegance, the house poses a modern metaphor to the idea of the fort and bring the two elements - exposed concrete and wood - in its purest form together.

The house is a bunker on the outside, one of those massive concrete structures I used to see in Normandy - where I was born - protecting a Mexican pyramid on the inside; one of those I used to see when I travelled around in Mexico, the country where it's been 10 years now that I live and work. – Ludwig Godefroy

The Zicatela has been built on a small 300 sqm plot, using a typology of defensive architecture, where a wall surrounds the terrain completely, helping create a 100 percent controlled area on the inside. This turns it into an open-to-sky fortress, with only one main view towards the sky, as the architect believes it is the only permanent element in time”.

  • Plan | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    Zicatela House - Plan Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • Section | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    Zicatela House - Section Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • Section  | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    Zicatela House - Section Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • View of the model | Zicatela House| Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    View of the model Image Credit: Rory Gardiner

The contemporary design of the house juxtaposes a number of staircases that not only connect the two levels but also provide a visual experience and access to the roof. One enters through a pivoting wooden door into a doorway formed between two staircases that open into a courtyard. Four amphitheatre-like staircases create a central space, one part of which houses the kitchen and the dining area. This space then becomes the central thoroughfare of the house, and this formation makes one believe into the idea of staircase becoming a social space for interaction and communication, which can be seen in various examples in history.

  • The central thoroughfare becomes the social connecting space | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The central thoroughfare becomes the social connecting space Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  •  The design creates a synergy between concrete, green spaces and wood | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The design creates a synergy between concrete, green spaces and wood Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • Concrete steps that can be used for sitting or displaying potted plants | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    Concrete steps that can be used for sitting or displaying potted plants Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • The bedrooms are positioned at the either ends of the swimming pool | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The bedrooms are positioned at the either ends of the swimming pool Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • The bridge creates a floating effect over the structure | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The bridge creates a floating effect over the structure Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • The glass-less bedrooms with concrete floors have minimal furnishings | Zicatela House | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The glass-less bedrooms with concrete floors have minimal furnishings Image Credit: Rory Gardiner

Two courtyards or open-to-sky spaces exist on either sides of a broad and long passageway. Two bedrooms and a storage facility are provided at the corners of this cuboid, while the third bedroom is placed at an obtuse angle to the entire geometry, giving it much importance, privacy and aloofness. A rectangular swimming pool seperates the entire cuboid from this bedroom, making the construed space appear floating and separate from the rest. The staircases give access to the roof that act as a platform to overlook the beautiful vistas on both the sides.

Much importance has been given to the details such as the way the doors appear, flush with the external surface, the pivot doors, the finish of the concrete, the landscape and other elements that bring together the entire experience.

The external appearance of the house is that of a fort giving one almost no clue of what may be inside. The house internally appears like an oasis in the dessert, a refreshing new layout and austerely open to the sky in its entirety.

  • The dining area in the central courtyard | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The dining area in the central courtyard Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • The various textures in the concrete finish | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The various textures in the concrete finish Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • The open-air space at the back houses a small swimming pool, which can be viewed from the bedrooms | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy |STIRworld
    The open-air space at the back houses a small swimming pool, which can be viewed from the bedrooms Image Credit: Rory Gardiner
  • Cozy interiors of the bedroom | Mexico | Ludwig Godefroy | STIRworld
    Cozy interiors of the bedroom Image Credit: Rory Gardiner

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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