When architecture falls in love with nature: the Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse in Mexico

The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse designed by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos is articulated as a low circular volume made of sustainably sourced wood, ‘like a boat anchored in the water.’

by Jincy IypePublished on : Jan 23, 2023

When architecture falls in love with nature, does it inadvertently forge new identities? When does a building ascend to a being, sans purpose or materiality, by melting into the embrace of nature and seeking a higher purpose through a holistic, forgiving construction led by sustainability?

The Valle San Nicolás – Clubhouse has a distinct circular volume articulated in sustainably sourced timber | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
The Valle San Nicolás – Clubhouse has a distinct circular volume articulated in sustainably sourced timberImage: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse conceived by Sordo Madaleno carves routes into the enquiry vis-à-vis its curated geometric design, a low circular form resting in nature that prioritises 360-degree frames and uninhibited vistas of its natural surroundings. Valle San Nicolás is a development lying on the outskirts of Valle de Bravo, a municipality located on Lake Avándaro, west of Mexico City in the State of Mexico, offering itself as a privileged site for the new 370-hectare residential development. Here, “the urban layout and every architectural element are designed in harmony with nature and with the aim of protecting the existing landscape,” the Mexican architects explain.

  • The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse rests in nature, prioritising 360-degree frames and uninhibited vistas of its natural surroundings in Mexico | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse rests in nature, prioritising 360-degree frames and uninhibited vistas of its natural surroundings in Mexico Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno
  • The timber architecture has a low lying form, reflected gently in the lake it is anchored upon | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    The timber architecture has a low-lying form, reflected gently in the lake it is anchored upon Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

Spaces of relaxation and well-being, including the Clubhouse and the 800-meter waterski lake, are peppered generously throughout the contextual design’s 1,800 sqm floorplan, providing its residents with an enhanced connection with, and enjoyment of the natural landscape that ensconces it with intention. Brimming with serenity and awe, the Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse as well as the shimmering lake are set at the lowest point of the masterplan, taking advantage of the rainwater runoff.

A geometric pier extension offers a sunbathing area and a swimming space | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
A pier-shaped geometric extension offers a sunbathing area and a swimming spaceImage: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

Cross-laminated and sustainably sourced timber were employed to realise this Mexican architecture, as an investigation and celebration of the natural site it calls home. The entirety of the built structure takes in its powerful site, of a lake surrounded by forested mountains blanketed by vast stretching skies, like something out of a carefully curated film set lit by natural sunrises. The Clubhouse claims to be a built manifesto of careful, slow design, where nature and sustainable architecture integrate to create a dazzling-built chorus supported by repeated notes of warm wooden beams and sun-kissed vantage points forming hymns to the earth.  

The two most prominent natural elements of the site—the mountain and the lake—were studied to converge and relate to each other through the building | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
The two most prominent natural elements of the site—the mountain and the lake—were studied to converge and relate to each other through the building Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

Javier Sordo Madaleno Bringas, president of Sordo Madaleno, highlights the crux of the wooden architecture by saying, “The natural conditions of Valle San Nicolás were explored to better understand how the two most prominent natural elements—the mountain and the lake—could converge and relate to each other through a work of architecture. This point of encounter gave rise to the Clubhouse as the main place for socialising.”

Following the guiding idea of a subtle and friendly approach between architecture and nature, the Clubhouse was conceptualised in reference to a boat anchored in the lake, as if it were floating on the water. – Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos
The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse in Mexico (L); Conceptual sketch of the Clubhouse (R)  | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse in Mexico (L); Conceptual sketch of the Clubhouse (R) Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno (L); Courtesy of Sordo Madaleno (R)

Embraced by nature

According to Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, the contextual architecture's form is articulated and resolved by a circular floor plan fragmented around its radius to distribute and modulate the varied spaces and amenities it hosts.

Aerial view of the Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse immersed in nature | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
Aerial view of the Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse immersed in nature Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno
 A sunken, brick corridor divides the circular plan, and leads into the interior pond | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
A sunken, brick corridor divides the circular plan, and leads into the interior pondImage: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

This lyrical strategy is made apparent in the dramatic interplay of solids and voids brought forth by the internal bodies of water as they coalesce with the lake, while the wooden walls of the timber architecture rise perceptibly from the bottom. The circular volume with its luxurious open layout permits the sun to flood and filter through the modern and rooted hospitality architecture, reflecting its seemingly symmetric being in the sparkling water body.

  • Warm timber walls running along the circle's perimeter seem to rise from the water body | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    Warm timber walls running along the circle's perimeter seem to rise from the water bodyImage: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno
  • Concentric rings (one inner and one outer) serve as open circulatory passageways that vacillate around the Clubhouse | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    Concentric rings (one inner and one outer) serve as open circulatory passageways that vacillate around the Clubhouse Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

Concentric rings (one inner and one outer) become open circulatory passageways that vacillate around the geometric form, boasting precious, vibrant views of the natural landscape and the man-made pond inside. In the middle, a sunken central corridor of brick helps shorten the journey, by leading directly to the main deck, attached with a bar and TV room, before culminating into the picturesque floating pool.

The circular volume with its luxurious open layout permits the sun to flood and filter through the modern Clubhouse | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
The circular volume with its luxurious open layout permits the sun to flood and filter through the modern Clubhouse Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

This central route also helps divide the spatial zoning, with the east side containing the dining area, barbecue space, kitchen and related services, and the west housing the gym, spa cabins with an outdoor jacuzzi, apart from a steam room, sauna and attached changing rooms. An elongated pier extends out into the water, offering a sunbathing area and a swimming space decorated with outdoor seating, and uninterrupted sights of the panoramic topography.

Each vantage point inside Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse perpetually prioritises views of the scenic natural surroundings | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
Each vantage point inside Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse perpetually prioritises views of the scenic natural surroundings Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) brings about the construction system enunciating the Valle San Nicolás – Clubhouse, with exposed beams and columns designed in short spans. These are placed in a radial distribution that creates the distinctive, and cinematic circular volume of the hospitality design, with stone walls housed in wooden frames anchoring it to the lake. Employing natural materials, the earthy and handsome interior design matches the structural elements of the timber construction’s exterior.

  • The warm, woody and earthy interior design matches the structural elements of the timber construction’s exterior | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    The warm, woody and earthy interior design matches the structural elements of the timber construction’s exteriorImage: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno
  • The timber Clubhouse takes cues from an anchored boat and is conceived to seem like it is floating on water | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    The timber Clubhouse takes cues from an anchored boat and is conceived to seem like it is floating on water Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

A deck dressed in wood by Kebony (a Norwegian wood producer), surfaces of volcanic stone, and the American red oak roof comprise the finishes deployed to make the Clubhouse harmonise with and reflect its powerful, natural surroundings. Developed in Norway, Kebony employs special care and technology where softwoods are heated with furfuryl alcohol (an agricultural by-product), modifying the wood to become cost-effective tropical hardwoods, resulting in contributing significantly less to the carbon footprint.

  • A deck dressed in Kebony wood, surfaces of volcanic stone, and the American red oak roof comprise the finishes deployed to make the Clubhouse harmonise with its natural surroundings | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    A deck dressed in Kebony wood, surfaces of volcanic stone, and the American red oak roof comprise the finishes deployed to make the Clubhouse harmonise with its natural surroundings Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno
  • Inside The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    Inside The Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse Image: Rafael Gamo, © Sordo Madaleno

Led by a sustainable conscience and focus on well-being, the Valle San Nicolás – Clubhouse found its genesis and final form in the intimate proximity and embrace of nature. The contemporary architecture leads by example among the plethora of site-specific well-being estates nestled in natural landscapes, preaching, and emphasising sustainable construction and connecting with nature, without comprising on its desired, handsome, and unique aesthetic.   

  • Roof plan; floor plan; contextual plan; program plan | Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    Roof plan; floor plan; contextual plan; program plan Image: Courtesy of Sordo Madaleno
  • Sections and CLT Beams - Sketch Detail (bottom)| Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse by Sordo Madaleno | STIRworld
    Sections and CLT Beams - Sketch Detail (bottom) Image: Courtesy of Sordo Madaleno

Project Details

Name: Valle San Nicolás - Clubhouse
Location: Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico
Area: 1,800 sqm
Year of completion:
Architect: Sordo Madaleno (Javier Sordo Madaleno Bringas - President)
Design team: Javier Sordo Madaleno de Haro, Fernando Sordo Madaleno de Haro (Architectural Directors); Boris Pena (Project Lead); Luis Pucheta, Santiago Letona, Alba Díaz (Design Manager); Andrés Burguete, Ignacio Cabrera, José Mendoza, Luis Torres, Marco Pérez, Federico Serna (Design Team); Marcos Hernández (Engineering Coordination); José Eduardo Hernández (Engineering Team); Rosalba Rojas, Daniela Cruz, Fernanda Ventura (Media & Marketing); Fernanda Patiño (Interior Design Director); Delfina Espina, Regina Jarque (Interior Design Team)
Structural Engineering: Metal y Madera, Alba Estructural
Electric Engineering, Systems & Special Engineering, Hydrosanitary Engineering: Imati
Lighting Consultant: Artec3
Audio & Video Consultant: Solutions Audio&Video
Landscape Consultant: Jerónimo Gabayet, Concepto Q, Entorno Taller de Paisaje
Construction: TUCA, Metal y Madera
Construction Coordination: Terraforma, GJA

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