Project in Detail
Senosiain Architects, Mexico City, Mexico
World Architecture Festival 2008 - Shortlisted
This architectural project was located on an irregular parcel of 0.5 hectares. The lot had an irregular surface due to a ravine with oak trees located all along the length of the property. Only five percent of the land remained, with a gentle slope next to the small edge of the property bordering the street. There were a few collapsed caves on the property, resulting from the extraction of a kind of clay used to manufacture a light brick used widely in the mid-twentieth century construction industry. Other caves, formed when soil was removed by construction crews, had collapsed, creating depressions on both sides of the ravine. One of these produced a sort of crater. Only one of these caves, about fifty meters long and six meters wide, was considered safe and preserved. The irregular surface became a challenge for the project; the area was relying on building licenses for only 10 houses, and the owners plan a traditional housing state, where the cars were coming in front of every housing and each of them own its small private garden; solution that not only was costly for the infrastructure necessary to provide the communication channels in such a rough area, but in addition, it would finish with the nature as the nearby developments did it, for what the project derive towards a construction that was capable of saving the existing glens, which had few supports and where the green areas were remaining immaculate, deriving in a pipe of 110 mts. length that it was adjusting to the sights, the topography and the orientation... The green areas were not to be touched. Instead it was decided to take advantage of the slopes and depressions in the terrain. This would leave about 97% of the land to free space and forested areas. The small percentage of very flat terrain where there were no trees was used for parking.
Out of this winding landscape, the body of the serpent, Quetzalcoatl, took shape. The mysterious, flexible body, created out of ferrocement of iridescent colors, emerald greenish-gold combined with a deep violet-blue just like the plumes of the quetzal, dips into the land, reappears, and again penetrates the land from which it came in serpentine fashion. The cosmic snake, representing Quetzalcoatl, once considered the mediator between heaven and earth, has an interior volume that is 6.50 meters high and 8.60 meters wide, is two stories high, and is the location of all the houses, each one measuring approximately 180 square meters. Each home contains interior domes, walls painted with warm, earthy colors, and semicurved windows with a generous view of the gardens.
Access to these houses is achieved along the backbone of the serpent by means of a long hallway or passage that descends to the homes
Next to the pedestrian access we find the rattle of the Great Serpent, a structure comprised of three stories. The top story, or the rattle, is the water deposit, beneath that we find the watchman’s post, and under that the machine room and storage rooms for each of the houses.
The serpent is a controversial figure and has symbolized different things to different cultures throughout history. Out of the cave measuring six meters in width by 50 meters in height emerges the impressive, multi-colored head of the serpent, providing a wonderful view of the whole canyon. The mouth of this Great Serpent, on the other hand, which serves as a doorway, instills a desire to enter into the bowels of this creature and awakens unpredictable, ambiguous sensations that fluctuate between curiosity and fear, between joy and uncertainty, a journey that ends in a glimpse of light leading to the water-filled crater , much like the great natural underground reservoir of mythology.
In the middle of the canyon that goes through the parcel of land and in front of Quetzalcoatl’s head, rainwater flows down and creates a pool. The waste water from the houses is directed through a sewage treatment plant and then into this same pool and all of this water is used to irrigate the green areas. As it flows over the natural contours of the landscape, the water in this pool moves over a waterfall into the smallest deposit. From here it is pumped out of the rattle of one of seven snakes and into the center of the pool in the shape of an arch, thus permitting movement of the water to become the final part of the sewage treatment process.
An aerial view of the condominium provides even greater appreciation of the craters in the terrain which, together with the canyon, create a microclimate that separates the inhabitants from the urban environment outside. Besides the Quetzalcoatl, there are winding stone walls of long, narrow serpents that make unexpected turns as they follow the natural curves that border the terrain; other walls serve as railings in the crater and others still as retaining walls of protection from the ravine. All these serpentine curves create a set of shapes, symbols and colors that transmit legendary allegories to its beholders.
Mr Javier Senosiain
Mr Porfirio Ballesteros
Ballesteros Ingenieros Consultores
Client / Developer
Ms Adriana Navarro
Mr Luis Raul Enriquez
Mr Kees Van Roig
Arquitectura del Paisaje
Mr Luis Raúl Lozoya
Luz y Forma
Mr Luis Raúl Enriquez
Mr Javier Senosiain
Mr Alfonso Olvera
Latinoamericana de Concretos
Mrs Zenaida Breton
Deck & wall polystyrene panels
Sistema Constructivo Monolite
Mr Sostenes Gonzalez
52 (55) 52 79 59 00
Mr Delfino Estrada
Mr Enrique Garcia
5804-23-60 5804-23-66 5804-23-06