Dramatic concrete folds construe Casa Acantilado along a Pacific cliffside

Designed as a series of protruding masses from a cliffside in the resort city of Zihuatanejo, the villa by Zozaya Arquitectos is formed along the lines of a lighthouse for the marooned.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Aug 05, 2022

The very elusive intersection between luxury living, real estate, and a vernacular method of building that the former two now seem to be veering towards, is one of the emergences that recent architecture from Mexico seems to have a hold over. The unique identity moulding that happens as part of that intersection is both heavily contemporary as well as piningly reflective of the current time in which this architecture is built. The recent Pensamientos Residencial by Espacio 18 Arquitectura, Zoncuantla Apartments by Rafael Pardo, and several others from the realm of Mexican architecture that seem to be operating in an intersectional venn diagram of the three are greatly reflective of this overlap. Zozaya Arquitectos, based in the Mexican district of Guerrero, along with its real estate arm LIVEBYZAR, were founded on the same belief of innovation and vernacularity in housing and real estate. Along with their previous outing, Punta Majahua, and their latest with Pend Holdings in partnership with Tracy Tutor, the firm, founded by Enrique Zozaya, and headed by Daniel Zozaya Valdes, cements its niche and expertise.

  • Perched on a cliffside, the villa overlooks the Pacific ocean | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Perched on a cliffside, the villa overlooks the Pacific ocean Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The villa’s external materiality framed in concrete, rubble, and wood and palm leaves in the palapa | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The villa’s external materiality framed in concrete, rubble, and wood and palm leaves in the palapa Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The infinity pool is only partially attached to the main structure to deepen the connection between the water body and the ocean | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The infinity pool is only partially attached to the main structure to deepen the connection between the water body and the ocean Image: Rafael Gamo

Planted, prostrated, and propped firmly but along a single edge of a rocky cliff side marked with endemic vegetation, the verdant residential villa brings to fore the almost always unique response that architecture has to a panorama around it, especially if it has to draw definition from it. Flanked by a hillside forest on one side and a transfigured cluster of rocks shaped by sustained ploughing from ocean waves on the other, the villa not only capitalises on the views and its proximity to two diverse natural biomes on offer, it also strives for an elemental representation of them.

  • The villa is accessed through the top most level, the residence’s social and communal area | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The villa is accessed through the top most level, the residence’s social and communal area Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The palm leaf palapa roof seems to respond to the abundant vegetation in the site’s vicinity and the hillside forest | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The palm leaf palapa roof seems to respond to the abundant vegetation in the site’s vicinity and the hillside forest Image: Rafael Gamo
  • Made of wood, stone, and locally gathered palm leaf, the palapa aids the open social space with controlled ingress of natural light and ventilation | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Made of wood, stone, and locally gathered palm leaf, the palapa aids the open social space with controlled ingress of natural light and ventilation Image: Rafael Gamo

Its form seems an abstract mirroring of the rocks it emerges and takes shape from, in concrete. Its comprehensively designed palapa roof composed in stone, wood, and palm leaves seems to nod to the foliage surrounding it. The blues brought to life in its infinity pool, propped akin to a vessel over cylindrical concrete columns, are almost as if reaching out to be one with the perpetually-in-motion being of the ocean. This careful form giving and material-imparting exercise, didactically linked to its environs, is also carried into the interiors of the villa with a directness that is as disarming as it is definitive.

  • A monumentally shaped open concrete staircase leads to the ground floor lobby from the upper social space, providing access to the four rooms | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    A monumentally shaped open concrete staircase leads to the ground floor lobby from the upper social space, providing access to the four rooms Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The space is entirely enclosed in concrete and ends in a narrow pool that carries the same sense of enclosure ahead | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The space is entirely enclosed in concrete and ends in a narrow pool that carries the same sense of enclosure ahead Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The narrow pool terminates in a view of the ocean | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The narrow pool terminates in a view of the ocean Image: Rafael Gamo

The morphology of the villa is defined by two slightly rotated geometric volumes with a direct impetus to direct views and harbour spaces along avenues that point toward the Pacific. The architects define the topography as a determining factor in the spatial organisation of the villa, with the cascading, terrace-like arrangement of floor plates resulting from the contoured arrangement of the site, as well as serving a direct influence on its circulation and access pattern.

  • Each of the rooms have a private terrace that overlooks the ocean | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Each of the rooms have a private terrace that overlooks the ocean Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The interior spatiality is also defined by the folds of the concrete above | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The interior spatiality is also defined by the folds of the concrete above Image: Rafael Gamo
  • The rooms are adorned with items of craft and furniture created by local artisans and workers | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The rooms are adorned with items of craft and furniture created by local artisans and workers Image: Rafael Gamo
  • One of the rooms has an economical yet innovative bunk bed arrangement | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    One of the rooms has an economical yet innovative bunk bed arrangement Image: Rafael Gamo
  • An open bathroom arrangement featured in one of the rooms | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    An open bathroom arrangement featured in one of the rooms Image: Rafael Gamo

The house is directly ingressed from the upper floor and into a large communal space topped by the palapa. With the social centre of the house following this porous layout, all of its resultant visual avenues point towards the ocean, along with the latent edges of the infinity pool, while the palapa’s shape and material composition aid natural light and cross-ventilation. In a number of ways, the typical hierarchy of how spaces in a conventional house flow from semi-public to private sanctums of the house is kept intact here, but on a vertical scale.

  • Casa Acantilado: Floor plans | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Casa Acantilado: Floor plans Image: Courtesy of Zozaya Arquitectos
  • Casa Acantilado: Side elevation | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Casa Acantilado: Side elevation Image: Courtesy of Zozaya Arquitectos
  • Casa Acantilado: Section showcasing how the built form emerges as a result of the terrains | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Casa Acantilado: Section showcasing how the built form emerges as a result of the terrain Image: Courtesy of Zozaya Arquitectos
  • Casa Acantilado: Section through the infinity pool and palapa roof | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    Casa Acantilado: Section through the infinity pool and palapa roof Image: Courtesy of Zozaya Arquitectos

From this level, the private area of the house is accessed via a monumentally framed staircase, confined in the bare concrete enclosure of its surrounding walls, closing in a narrow pool that carries the same sense of enclosure that is released only at its edge. The entire space embodies an aura of intrigue and quietness, with the dampness in the concrete and pockets of light softly illuminating the folds of the concrete being palpable sentiments in the experience of the enclosed space. Outside, the same concrete gives form to a certain solitude in the form of large, buttress like supports that give the residence design a monumentality reminiscent of fort enclosures sans the scale, helping it perch against the tricky terrain.

  • A walk through the verdant Casa Acantilado Video: Courtesy of ND 94: César Belio, Edson Contreras
  • The villa is modeled after a lighthouse, providing illumination to sailors and passersby | Casa Acantilado | Zozaya Arquitectos | STIRworld
    The villa is modeled after a lighthouse, providing illumination to sailors and passersby Image: Rafael Gamo

This lobby provides access to the four rooms, each with a variable level of amenities and spatial arrangement, but with a private terrace that opens up spaces of contemplation facing the indelible landscape. Adorned with items of craft created by local artisans, and furniture and finishes by the local workforce, the rooms' lofty volumes - a result of the folding concrete above - come alive with a vernacular anchoring amid the tropical haven, much in sync with the enticing and abstractly appealing notion of a fixed structure, the lighthouse, giving direction and even a sense of embrace for marine sojourns.

Project Details

Name: Casa Acantilado
Location: Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico.
Architects: Zozaya Arquitectos
Develepors: Pend Holdings in partnership with Tracy Tutor
Area: 777 sq.m.
Design team: Daniel Zozaya Valdés (Lead), Enrique Zozaya, José Antonio Vázquez, Ana Karen Cadena, Cesar Octavio, Jesus Lopez

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