by Jincy IypeMay 22, 2023
Raw, unfinished surfaces typically remind us of archaic structures. Whether this finish burnishes upon naturally occurring stone elements in historically relevant edifices or is added as a conscious choice upon contemporary buildings, the crude aesthetic evokes images of rudimentary efforts undertaken in the realm of architecture. When this finishing style is accompanied by a monophonic material palette and monumentally striking silhouettes, this correlation intensifies. While unrefined surfaces serve as reminders of a time when the provisions of machine-led developments were non-existent or rare, the enormity of such structures rekindles the awe felt when encountered with monoliths that hint at divine intervention.
Mexico-based architect Ludwig Godefroy’s designs are characterised by these preceding features. Both, the exterior appearance and the interior spaces in his structures, manage to appropriate a guise redolent of primitive times and lifestyles. Godefroy’s designs favour the integration of the most essential elements and spaces over ornamentation or the addition of technological provisions. An advocate of minimalist living, the French architect attempts to convey this missive through architectural interventions that are designed for simple living and that present an unpolished canvas ready to hold the inhabitant’s stories. Godefroy’s recent residential project, Casa en los Cocos, too, is a rustic haven that promises to keep the dwellers close to their instinctual aspirations with sheltered spaces resembling the clefts and crannies of nature.
Located in the south of the historic center of Mérida, Yucatán, in Mexico, the residential building stands upon a land measuring 70 metres long and eight metres wide. The residential design, hence, takes after the shape of the site. It spreads longitudinally across the narrow plot, creating a ‘strong vanishing point effect upon entering the site.’ The house comprises a series of fragmented pavilions that are inspired by prehispanic architecture. These pavilions, stationed at calculated distances from each other, hold open-to-sky courtyards in between. A perennial water stream leads visitors from the entrance to the zenith of the structure. "The project responds to the narrow proportion of the site crossing from side to side, materialising it with water guiding everywhere through the whole house," the architect shares. This water body, interrupted by shaded pavilion-like enclosures, sometimes cinctures and at other times, expands, to envelop and accompany pathways or serve as mirrored pools stationed before the leisure spots within the structure.
The residential architecture holds three large pavilions within the site—two bedroom pavilions with private gardens, placed on farther ends of the plan, and a centrally located pavilion that houses living and leisure spaces. Formatted like a central agora that beckons the public, the central living area pavilion can be approached from the living quarters placed on either side of it, through pathways that appear to float upon the artificial water stream within the residence. This central pavilion also hosts the kitchen space and a stairway leading to the upper floor, the terrace. It is open on all sides to let the breeze flow in and is construed as an area meant for social gatherings. “Casa en los Cocos is structured around its negative void space, which is as important as its positive pavilions built space. The contrast between open and closed defines also the border between public and private areas,” Godefroy shares.
Casa en los Cocos remits the conventions followed for residential design. The different private and semi-private spaces are not enclosed and separated from each other by means of concordant walls, and the different areas are not zoned according to standard practices. Instead, the structure stands erect sans a distinguishable facade or delimitations. An absence of structured fillings, manifesting in the form of structural voids, serves as vestibular spaces sitting adjacent to the pavilions. "Taking the land proportion as a starting point for the design, and creating this intimate central agora, the whole ground floor with its garden becomes a large strolling area," the architect shares. These pathways, open for walks, present an immersive and rich experience, with an array of different features dotting the site’s expanse, and views that change with every step.
By defying the integration of typically found elements and spaces within the residence, the project manages to draw focus to the elemental features and their beauty, while also inspiring a simple life. In building a series of pavilions that are connected through pathways, Godefroy manages to provide open, meditative spaces within the site. “This research of simplicity is leading the design to a clean and abstract architecture, composed entirely of massive materials such as concrete, wood and stone. All those materials are able to get old and better looking under the action of time, rather than getting damaged. The concept of time is becoming part of the architecture. The time as if it would be material, following the purpose of stepping back to this old and simple idea to let the “patina of time” be part of the project,” Godefroy shares, enunciating the ethos that guides his practice.
Name: Casa en los Cocos
Location: South of the historic center of Mérida, Yucatán, in Mexico
Area: 560 square metres
Year of completion: 2023
Architect: Ludwig Godefroy