by Sunena V MajuSep 15, 2022
In one of Mexico's most culturally rich places—in terms of nature, history and architecture–lies an old mansion whose history dates back to 17th and 18th centuries. Casa Mulata takes birth in RootStudio's approach to restoring the three sections of this old house and reviving it to be more aligned with the requirements and functions of the contemporary world. With design elements of colonial architecture, the structure acts as a soliloquy of how the city of Oaxaca has transformed over the years.
As part of the restoration, the Mexican architects introduced new elements as a way to blend and enhance the existing style and highlight the architecture’s history. With Casa Mulata, RootStudio indulges in what they are known for, working with an earthen palette, sustainable materials, and the balance between the traditional and contemporary. These are ideas that are prevalent in many of their earlier projects, such as Hotel Flavia and the restoration of Gabriel López Chiñas Library.
Extending across 81 sq.m of the two-storeyed mansion, it has been carefully renovated by adding a modern timber-clad structure, which acts as a bridge and helps integrate new spaces in the original shell of the residential architecture. The ground floor consists of an intimate area along with a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. These spaces display a kaleidoscope of texture, materials, and colours. Considering the linearity of the plan, a double-height space helps with circulation and provides more flexibility in the interiors.
The first floor features a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with its interior design supplementing the use of recovered or reclaimed wood on the walls, floors and ceilings. The space has a double height, which allows the second room to house itself in a mezzanine, framing the expansive vista of the surrounding mountains. This modulation to the volume is raised and attached to the original structure, delicately incorporated in a manner that allows it to be removed anytime.
RootStudio's concept looks to fuse two seemingly opposing ideas—the traditional and avant-garde, memories and a moment, the old and the new. It is a motif once sees in all of their projects. For Casa Mulata, local artisans were approached to help with the furniture pieces, textiles, pottery, and many other details for the interior design. Rustic, muted and soft earthy tones dominate the design, while environment-friendly means of manufacturing are utilised. These locally available materials include tropical woods such as nopo, pine and tzalam, earth and lime based paints, and vegetation. Every corner of the house takes shape in an interesting play of material and colour, complemented by garden spaces. Elevating the interiors are works by artists such as Trine Ellitsgaard and Ana Hernández, both specialised in textile research and experimentation, and the photographs of Alberto Ibáñez and Dalí Nelio.
Casa Mulata comes together as a modern thread in the traditional fabric of Oaxaca, exhibiting its culturally rich construction and present-day additions. "In the process of raising the contemporary volume, RootStudio respected the infrastructure of the original building, its terracotta walls and the ceiling vaults. The new structure was incorporated in such a way that it could be removed—meaning it is not anchored—to restore the primordial state of the property," share the architects.
A timber framework delicately wraps around the old walls. Along with the Mexico-based architects' attention to creating a bridge between the past and the future, they emphasise the existing architectural character of the building's context. While most Mexican residences rest in horizontally spread sites, interacting with their immediate surroundings and nature, Casa Mulata stands in contrast to its context. With a front yard that acts as an entry point and recreation space, the structure retreats in order to let the natural elements be emphasised more. While the transition from built and unbuilt primarily occurs through the facade design, the architects employ wooden screens to create the main aesthetical feature. Separated by this facade, the interiors and exteriors, though different, remain connected. At Casa Mulata, it is the details that marry the past and present of Mexican architecture.
(Text by Aaryaa Joshi, intern at STIRworld)
Name: Casa Mulata
Location: Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico
Client: Yoya & Tavo
Typology: Residential / Hospitality
Principal architect: João Boto Cæiro
Built area: 144 sq.m
Site area: 81sq.m
Collaborators: Ana Hernandez (Art), Trine Ellitsgaard (textile), Dalí (PhotoArt), El Negro Ibáñez (PhotoArt)
Structural engineer: Nicolas Coello
Lighting Construction and Supervision: RootStudio