Water and architecture are closely related in habitat design, encompassing both functional and aesthetic aspects. The best option is to take this into account from the beginning of the design process, as implementing appropriate technologies and systems will determine water consumption. Currently, it is our responsibility as professionals to think about how we can reduce and recycle water consumption within our own homes. There are various ways to address these needs, such as installing low-flow devices in faucets and showers, dual-flush toilets, and efficient irrigation systems for landscaping. In addition, rainwater collection and reuse systems can be implemented for irrigation or house cleaning, which contributes to its conservation.
However, water can also play a significant role in the aesthetic design of a house. Elements such as fountains, ponds, pools, or waterfalls can be incorporated both indoors and outdoors to create visually appealing spaces and provide a sense of serenity and connection with nature. In regions with warm climates, water can be strategically used in architectural design to achieve thermal comfort by incorporating “muros llorones” (weeping walls) or waterfalls in indoor areas or courtyards, which cool the environment through evaporation.
Integrating water into the architectural design of a house can be a creative and functional way to make use of this natural resource. Here are some project ideas in Mexico to achieve it.
The Rombos (Diamonds) consist of four interconnected structures that blend with the formal layout of the urban fabric. It is a private space with three residences and a studio, situated in a central, tree-lined area of Mexico City
called Bosques de las Lomas. The continuous presence of trees surrounds the space, making them perhaps our most present guests and, in any case, the most enveloping, similar to water, which flows continuously. Fountains and mirrors are constant natural elements where reflections enhance the environment, which is predominantly green in this case, as trees and vegetation are highly valued in densely populated cities, along with water, land, and even more so today, privacy.
The first thing you see when approaching Casa Volta are three brick vaults floating amidst the dense vegetation of the Oaxacan coast. It may seem like a mirage caused by the intense heat and humidity of the area. Then, following a small path, one immerses themselves in the greenery, and the vaults disappear. The biggest surprise comes when, suddenly, a small clearing opens up, revealing a small bench next to a long water pond flanked on both sides by porticos of rectangular columns reflecting in it. It gives the impression of having arrived at an abandoned classical temple.
Mateo House is located at one of the highest points of the Punta Garrobo development in Zihuatanejo
. The challenge of the project was to enhance the user’s connection with the natural surroundings in their daily life. In this way, pathways, a water courtyard, and terraces create atmospheres of relaxation, leisure, and enjoyment. The entrance hall consists of an exterior staircase flanked by two volumes of stone walls that act as weeping walls, guiding toward the house’s central courtyard.
The Trava & Quintero Houses are two rehabilitation projects of the built heritage in the Santa Lucía neighborhood, one of the most touristy areas in the Historic Center of Mérida
, Mexico. The objective was to convert them into two temporary accommodation spaces, taking advantage of their privileged location behind one of the city’s most popular public squares known for its cultural offerings. Casa Trava is a house with 2 private bedrooms, 1 shared bathroom, a kitchen, a social area (dining-living room), a half bathroom, a laundry room, an open patio, and a shallow pool. Casa Quintero is a house with 1 open bedroom designed as a loft, 1 bathroom with a bathtub, a kitchen, a social area with double height, a laundry niche, an open patio, and a pool.
Valle Santana is a project carefully integrated into the site and its surroundings, with initial design guidelines focused on maximizing the proportion of the land and an open area within the property. By using one of the existing trees as the centerpiece of an entrance courtyard, the social area of the house is created, establishing a connection with the bedrooms and service areas while providing unobstructed views of the surrounding forest from all living spaces. The program consists of a social area that combines the living room, dining room, and kitchen into a versatile space that promotes social interaction, with access to an outdoor terrace. A water mirror and jacuzzi allow for the enjoyment of both the exterior and interior in harmony with nature, and the design of the doors and windows significantly integrates these spaces.
The program consists of a spacious family room that connects to the exterior, extending the social area onto the main terrace. It includes a bedroom and ensuite bathroom. The kitchen features a large slate stone bar that serves as both a dining area and a preparation space. The relaxed program and its spatial arrangement reinforce the recreational and social nature for which it was designed. The main entrance welcomes you with a large water mirror that culminates in a watering trough for horses, while a low sleeper wood wall conceals the parking area for cars.
Casa Xólotl is nestled on a property in the historic center of Mérida
. Due to the limited dimensions of the backyard resulting from the placement of the rear room and existing structures of the house, as well as a cistern, the pool is located between both sections. To increase its surface area, the pool extends over the remains of the rear section and surrounds the cistern, creating greater contact and integration with the terrace. The cistern is repurposed as a jacuzzi. The flooded room becomes a visual focal point from the entrance, blurring the boundaries between the interior and exterior spaces and merging them together.
SJAIII emerges conceptually from the relationships between different natural elements of the context and is inspired by the mutualism that nature is capable of, allowing life to thrive in a landscape that would otherwise be inert under different conditions. Initially, the program consisted of a palapa and a pool, or in other words, a roof elevated from the ground to provide shade and a bowl on the rock to contain water. However, in this idyllic scenario, the idea of imposing the program onto the site almost accidentally felt devoid of true meaning. Thus, the disjointed roof of the palapa was reimagined as a cover that extends from the very hill towards the ocean, while the water would flood the stone to create the pool, resembling a puddle left behind by low tides.
Valle House is situated on a plot of approximately 5,000 square meters within the Valle Santana residential development in Valle de Bravo
, State of Mexico. Accessible via a bridge that spans across the streams in the forest, stairs lead to the kitchen, indoor living room, and dining area, all connected to the covered terrace, barbecue area, stone oven, and outdoor dining space. Adjacent to it is the uncovered area featuring a jacuzzi/pool heated by solar panels and a deck that floats above the natural terrain.
Nature, views, the canyon, the lagoon, the design, the amenities, and the employees from the nearby community make JapoNeza not just a place to rest but a complete socio-emotional experience. JapoNeza provides a sense of serenity, peace, and tranquility. It offers unique corners, various amenities, and areas for relaxation, reading, and contemplation. The main terrace features a wooden hot tub with a view of the lagoon, as well as swings and hammocks throughout the house.
La Peña, an extension of a house, aims to embrace its surrounding environment. On one hand, the terrace’s shape is designed to harmonize with the garden’s topography, while the use of natural materials intends to blend it seamlessly with the natural surroundings and become a part of it. The terrace is divided into three platforms, corresponding to the different levels of the terrain and their respective purposes. The first platform serves as a dining area, the second provides a space for relaxation, and the last platform features a fire pit and a jacuzzi.
GREEN ROOFS AND RAINWATER HARVESTING SYSTEMS
The project consists of a set of 3 houses located in the southern part of Mexico City
, which was designed to become an architectural, sustainable, and technological icon. A strategy was implemented that combines passive systems with active systems. The rooftops are designed to capture as much rainwater as possible, which is then treated using state-of-the-art filters and stored for later reuse in irrigation and toilets.
The collection of four scattered volumes on a plot surrounded by the forest in Valle de Bravo
creates a house that focuses on the use of natural materials with an emphasis on volumes with simple and clean lines. The ensemble consists of a main house, a private shack/studio, 2 guest cabins, and a caretaker’s house. In addition, there are terraces placed at different points on the plot, as well as a lake formed by rainwater collected from the house and the slopes of the terrain, which serves as storage for irrigation.
The architectural project encountered an irregular 5,000 m2 plot with a highly rugged topography due to a creek with oak trees running longitudinally through the site. In the middle of the creek that crosses the plot, in front of the head of Quetzalcoatl, the rainwater is diverted, creating a pond. On the other hand, the wastewater from the houses is directed to the treatment plant within the complex. After treatment, it is also sent to the water feature for irrigation of all the green areas. This water feature has a waterfall that cascades into a smaller reservoir following the natural slope of the creek. From there, it is pumped through the interior of the rattlesnake’s tail, one of the seven serpents, to fall in an arched shape into the center of the pond. This allows the movement of water as the final part of the treatment process.
El Humedal features an edible forest, a constructed wetland, and an organic orchard. It has the capacity to capture 130,000 liters of rainwater for use in the project’s services. It also captures and treats municipal drainage water for irrigating the forest. Compost is generated through the use of composting toilets and plant material from the forest, which is used to create soil. Water is heated using thermo-solar panels, and the project has the capability to generate 100% of the electricity it needs through photovoltaic panels.