OAX Arquitectos creates a brutalist home near Majalca National Park, Mexico

Casa Majalca is designed to encourage outdoor activities and socialising with the community in the area while emulating the aura of a primitive cave.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Jan 03, 2022

Cumbres de Majalca National Park in Mexico features extraordinary rock formations. Sculpted by water and air erosion, the vertical rock formations are home to a pine and oak forest. The entire region was declared a protected zone, especially the endemic flora and fauna. Casa Majalca by OAX Arquitectos is a residential structure that finds itself a comfortable preach at the edge of a ravine with views of this unique topology and endemic trees within its boundaries. Located in a narrow, elongated lot with a 1:4 ratio proportion, the site lacks public services such as water, electricity, and drainage.

View of the Cumbres de Majalca National Park | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
View of the Cumbres de Majalca National Park Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

The rectilinear plot features a chamfered end along its northern edge while the southern edge faces the access road which is an unpaved rural road. To add a dynamic quality to how the building sits on this site, the western edge of the building features an angular jagged profile with numerous entrances, a detail not common in residential architecture. This gives the entire built structure a modulated form, one that the site itself did not provide. The eastern edge is constructed abutting the decide and forms part of the plot’s compound wall. When analysing the edges of the structure it becomes abundantly clear that most of the openings and fenestrations are along the northern or the southern edge.

  • South elevation | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
    South elevation Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega
  • Blank facade of Casa Majalca | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Blank facade of Casa Majalca Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega
  • View of the surrounding building | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
    View of the surrounding building Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

The jagged profile of the western angular wall deviates progressively from the central profile of the structure. The gap created by this deviation act as entranceways and features a transparent façade in the form of doors or glass windows. This detail also facilitates more light to enter the structure as it adds more edges to the perimeter of the building. Another source of light is the eastern enclosed courtyard which features an endemic tree. The courtyard has glass on three sides leading into the building, the fourth edge becomes part of the solid wall that defines the plot boundary.

  • Ground floor plan | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Ground floor plan Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega
  • First floor plan | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
    First floor plan Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

While the eastern wall reads as a serrated edge in the plan, when viewed three-dimensionally this architectural detail has a funnel-like appearance. This is largely due to the volumetric play of each of the sections. The first section of the building that faces the access road is a single storey volume and functions as a patio or veranda. The second section features a slightly larger volume, by virtue of its height, but is only one storey. This section of the building also has a terrace that encircles the courtyard and has a view of the crown of the tree and is among the foliage. The third section is, in fact, a two-storey space and consists of four en-suite bedrooms. The staggered volumes ascend towards the centre of the property, not the main house. The slopes of the roofscape were designed to achieve the optimal orientation of the nine solar panels necessary for the structure to generate its own energy.

Sections and elevations of the house | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
Sections and elevations of the house Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

As one goes further down the building, the programs of each of these spaces become more and more private; from the veranda at the very beginning, to the living room and courtyard, to the bedrooms. The interior design of the bedrooms allows an entire family to occupy a single room with the use of bunk beds. The rest of the house is composed of a large social area with terraces, a large storage area and a detached garage space. The complex volumes are meant to integrate into the landscape and emulate the characteristic stone monoliths of the Majalca National Park, with a colour that blends in with the land, and references the cultural past of the archaeological sites of Paquimé and Casas Grandes.

View of the structure from the South-West  | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
View of the structure from the South-West Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

Casa Majalca is conceptualised as a sustainable vacation house equipped to self-regulate its internal temperature for the summer and winter months. The orientation of the house helps it adapt to the conditions of the seasons in which it is inhabited and uses simple techniques that are the tenets of sustainable architecture. During winter this is done by reducing the demand for heating, the solid walls of the structure naturally insulate it. In summer, the structure orientation protects it from the harsh sun entering the space and by incorporating natural cross ventilation. While the form of the structure may seem to simply be an architectural gesture, all of its elements aid its climatological design. The different heights help with naturally ventilating the space. The construction system itself is based on insulated block walls with a 750 mm concrete finish on both sides. A rolled sheet roof with a slope greater than five per cent allows the recurrent snowfalls to naturally slide off. It is composed of a metallic structure, and thermal insulation, while the interior has a wooden ceiling, this wooden comes from the crates used to transport construction materials.

View of the structure from the North-West  | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
View of the structure from the North-West Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

The overall design of Casa Majalca is meant to encourage outdoor activities and socialising with the community in the area. OAX Arquitectos worked with the idea of imperfection and gave the structure a rustic and brutalist character similar to that of a primitive hut or cavern. At the same time, it is attempting to emulate what it would mean to inhabit the large rocks of Majalca National Park from the inside.

View of the structure from the South-East | Casa Majalca | OAX Arquitectos | STIRworld
View of the structure from the South-East Image: Francisco Martín Álvarez de la Vega

Project Details

Name: Casa Majalca (Majalca House)
Location: Parque Nacional Majalca; Chihuahua, México
Area: 300 m2
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: OAX Arquitectos
Design team:  José García Toledo,. Fernanda Roiz Silva, Luis Carlos Rodríguez González
Structural Engineer: Manuel Jezzini
Energy efficiency: Carlos Estrada Zubía
Interiors: Aileen García

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