With Casa Farca, south of Mexico City, Grupo Arquitectura makes waves north of the Rio Grande.
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Readers of the Mexican design press are doubtless familiar with Grupo Arquitectura. Since 1980, its 20-plus architects, under the leadership of Daniel Álvarez, have cut an impressive modern swath through the country, designing commercial high-rises, multifamily and private dwellings, and corporate and residential interiors. To most northern neighbors, however, the Mexico City firm is scarcely a blip on the radar screen. So, by way of introduction, we present Casa Farca, the embodiment of GA's sympathetic approach to a young couple's desire for informality.
Built as a weekend residence for interior designers Ezequiel Farca and Mónica Calderón, the house commands a spectacular site 60 miles south of Mexico City, in the Tepoztlan Valley. The jagged Cerro del Tepozteco, with its pre-Columbian pyramids, rises above dense foliage, making the trek through Mexico City's notorious traffic worthwhile. Unfortunately, the remote location also had drawbacks: scarce water, electricity, and tradesmen.
The lack of construction workers compelled Álvarez's team (Rosa López, Susana López, Juliana R. Guzman, Rafael Sánchez, and Alfonso Magaña, with Guillermo Tena for structural design) to devise a scheme easily erected onsite. Simultaneously stunning and straightforward, the 2,700-sq.-ft. rectangular volume is built from parts prefabricated in Mexico City. Six circular columns support a steel frame fronted by a glass curtain wall; precast fiberglass-cement panels, set flush with the glass, address privacy needs while modulating views and establishing a point-counterpoint rhythm of transparency and opacity. All is anchored by a concrete platform that, Álvarez says, "provides a clear demarcation between the house, terraces and pool, and surrounding vegetation."
Aside from the simplicity and close ties between built object and site, the beauty of Casa Farca's obviously Miesian scheme is the continuity between structural materials and interior finishes, which are one and the same. Only maple, pine, and the tropical wood machiche join the essential glass, steel, and concrete.
Space distribution follows the loft paradigm. An open living-dining-kitchen zone segues to a guest bedroom, casually defined by a cabinet partition. The second level, extending over half the building's length, accommodates the master bedroom and bath, reached by an open stairway. (Álvarez immediately acknowledges the improbability of this element complying with most U.S. codes.) On both floors, GA responded to the temperate climate by expanding beyond the house's finite boundaries with terraces at the front and rear and adjoining the master suite.
Despite challenges presented by seclusion, the house was built after only three months of design and another four of construction. The clients, engaged throughout, had most of the furnishings custom-designed and fabricated in Mexico City, brought in red chaises from Ligne Roset, and were ready to move in.
"Building in Mexico is easier and faster than in the U.S.," Álvarez says. Nevertheless, he cites expansion north as well as to Europe as a GA goal, to be reached through international competitions and marketing. Judged from ventures in Mexico, GA's visibility will surely be far-reaching.