Photographs: Claudio Sodi, Camila Cossio
César Guerrero, Ana Cecilia Garza
Text description provided by the architects. Cosmos House is a small house placed nearby Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The house is composed of three main elements. The first element is a center or hard nucleus, built with concrete slabs and columns with a brutal finish. It shelters the habitable space under the roof: a reduced program that includes one bedroom, kitchen-dinning room, living, and bathroom. Each of them occupies a quadrant of an almost perfect squared floor plan.
The second element is an external grid made of concrete beams and columns with a smooth finish. They are connected to the central nucleus which allows the extension of activities of the whole house to the exterior. Generating patios, terraces, perimeter circulation, and a pond. This modifies the perception of the real dimension by the experience of inhabiting the house. The third element is the roof that functions as a lookout towards the landscape. It holds a water mirror for reading the stars, constellations, and the cosmos that surround us at night.
The house has a strong relationship with the landscape through a skin of a mechanical wooden lattice, which also protects the house when not in use and will provide different levels of privacy when inhabited. The foundation has four elements of carrying capacity that lift the house, freeing the terrain and topography under it, so that water flows, air, local flora, and fauna can still cross the territory. At last, the outer concrete grid embraces and incorporates the existing vegetation, making the points between architecture and landscape undefined and transformed by the seasons, blooming, and uses that the inhabitants will give to the structure.
The constructive system is based on a grid of columns and beams of 20cm x 20cm placed to form interior spaces of 4.10m x 4.80m and exterior ones of 2.60m x 2.60m, 2.60m x 4.10m, and 2.60m x 4.80 m. The result is a house of 78.7m2 interior and 100 m2 total counting the area covered by the exterior structure of the house. One of the main design ideas of the house is the use of the structure in a reticular form that could respond to its situation within a seismic area. This way it would answer after telluric movements coming from any direction. In the same way, the selection of materials provides rigidity, durability, and low maintenance to the house. The use of wood makes the space feel warm and adds temporality as it will change over time. Seen this way, the house is a process of transformation related to the site, its vegetation, seasons, constellations, and surrounding nature.
The use of local materials, low maintenance, durability, and the rational understanding in its use is one of the bases of the design. Basically, there are two materials to build the house. Concrete (constructive system highly used by Mexican architecture) that provides structural resistance for the seismic zone, high durability, economy, and low maintenance. Wood (from the endemic tree macuil) offers flexibility on the enclosures, human scale, and the relationship of the house with its immediate surroundings, not only through the views but also through temperature, sound and wind.
All the water derived for the usage of the house is filtered by a cistern of sand and stones. The use of natural soaps and shampoos are promoted with the aim to keep the water free of pollution. During the rainy season, the water from the roof is captured and redirected by a single waterfall. The idea is to store it and use it for the growing of the gardens in the outer perimeter of the house.
As a house designed for a remote place far away from the city, the use of existing local resources was of great importance. Not only the material resources but the human ones. Human creativity was a constant during the building process of the house. The entire construction team was formed by local operators. They were trained through constant constructive trials of the different uses of concrete. Structure, walls, floors, and other finishes were made this way. The woodwork was made by local artisans who developed the mechanical opening and movement of the wooden doors and shutters. This contributes to the growth of local crafting and enriches architecture itself. The final result comes from the collaboration between local labor and architects.