by Jerry ElengicalJan 17, 2023
How can a steady inclusion of natural materials ensure a contemplative and modern residential design that fosters quiet living?
A poignant inclusion of natural and authentic materiality becomes the cornerstone for Casa El Pinar, a modern, simple, and balanced home in Mexico’s Valle de Bravo, a short distance away from Mexico City. Resting strong among verdant, high trees and in constant, joyous harmony with its surrounding lush landscape, the residential architecture takes on a staggered layout, responding respectfully and carefully to the sloped terrain it calls home, and saving the felling of many trees in the process. "The built footprint was kept to a minimum, allowing the forest itself to take centre stage,” share the architectural authors, CF Taller de Arquitectura and Merodio Arquitectos.
The 430 sqm elongated dwelling rises from the rugged topography, and employs basic and unadorned materials, including FSC-certified structural pine wood, concrete, steel, glass, and local stone, while leaving finishes exposed, both inside and out. “The luxury of the spatial quality of each of the rooms lies in the subtlety of the design and the constant view of the forest," the Mexican architects relay.
Simplicity adorns the main volume comprising the service areas and features a concrete basement clad in stone, while the floor above showcases the textured concrete wall that beautifies the north façade. Almost hiding in plain sight against the basement wall is a stone staircase design leading to the main door of the residential design.
To protect against harsh weather, this side of the Casa El Pinar is kept closed off, while its opposite side includes floor-to-ceiling windows that let in warm and bright natural light. “The constant visual connection with the forest, as well as the quiet it provides, contributes to the tranquil atmosphere of the space," say César Flores and Mikel Merodio, the lead architects for the project.
The concrete floors of the Mexican architecture juxtapose the structural laminated pine beams and plywood-covered ceilings, adding subtle texture and warmth to the home. Smaller details are kept to neutral colours, including black joints and window frames, as well as black and grey furnishings throughout the no-nonsense interior design. “The project is simple and honest in essence. Instead of existing separately, the structure and the finishes mimic each other; they are one and the same,” they continue.
A glass-enclosed central courtyard adds subtle drama to the stone architecture, hosting a sweetgum tree, and physically separating the main public areas while maintaining a visual connection, creating a sense of “flowing spaciousness.”
The hallways and rooms inside the contemporary architecture welcome daylight through clerestory windows. The sloped roof responds to the heavy rains, predominant to the area, and captures sunlight. A long hallway connects the living room with the home’s private spaces, which consists of three cosy bedrooms, each with an attached bathroom and closet space.
A concrete bungalow resides at the other end of the volume, linked to the main house through a covered terrace, replete with a snug jacuzzi. The bungalow also features a TV room as well as a guest bedroom, and akin to the main house opens to the north and connects the interior with the exterior.
The architects and design team share their thoughts on their employed materiality and features for the wooden architecture that cater to sustainability standards —"FSC-certified, laminated pine was used for the structure. As a construction system, wood alone boasts a negative balance of carbon emissions, in addition to being a renewable material. Wood does not emit CO2 or any other waste that is toxic to humans; all it requires is simple maintenance with oil every two years to ensure good performance and durability. An SPL rainwater harvesting system and a TIM wastewater recycling treatment plant were installed to irrigate the green areas.”
"We were particularly keen on using certified mass timber for this structure, as innovation on engineered laminated wood for structural applications is breaking new ground across the world. In Mexico, the reality is a bit different, most forests are not being sustainably harvested even when local communities are eager to incorporate responsible and sustainable practices, thousands of hectares are still lost to agriculture or urban development every year. Sustainable forest management has the potential to encourage the reforestation of areas previously deforested for agriculture and livestock, as is already the case in many regions of the country, with different plant fibres, such as conifers, tropical timber in the southeast and bamboos in the southeast," they elaborate.
According to CF Taller de Arquitectura + Merodio Arquitectos, wood as a sustainable building material is the key to building future skyscrapers and multi-level buildings, large clearings, and public buildings. The only limitation remains for basements and underground levels. For the rest, wood is the only construction system with a negative balance of carbon emissions, besides being a renewable material.
The mighty trunks of the pine trees frame resplendent views to the forest from any point of the house, relishing in the beauty of this project that reigns in the simplicity of using natural materials and establishing a clear, harmonious relationship with nature. “With its clean lines and sparse materials, this house is an understated retreat that invites reflection and contemplation," the architects concluded.
Name: Casa El Pinar
Location: Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico
Area: 430 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: CF Taller de Arquitectura + Merodio Arquitectos
Design team: César Flores and Mikel Merodio (lead architects); Jessica Cano, Ana Voeguelin, Nadia Martinez, Bruno Huerta, David Gordillo
Water Collection System: SPL Sistemas Pluviales
Water Treatment System: TIM Tecnologías Integrales Medioambientales