In Mexico, a house that returns to the well
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, July 16, 2024


In Mexico, a house that returns to the well
In an undated image provided by Rafael Gamo, via JSa, the home that the firm JSa designed for Enrique Olvera in the mountains of Valle de Bravo, Mexico. It was designed to be completely self-sufficient, in terms of water. (Rafael Gamo, via JSa via The New York Times)

by Lauren Gallow



NEW YORK, NY.- Years of abnormally low rainfall, higher-than-normal temperatures and aging infrastructure have led to a dangerously low water supply for Mexico City. The issue isn’t a new one for the Mexican capital — in 2014, it was ranked as the third most water-stressed of more than 150 of the planet’s largest cities. Now, the metropolis faces a water crisis so severe that local authorities recently began imposing rations.

For Javier Sánchez, a low-slung earthen house just west of Mexico City, designed by his architectural firm JSa, reflects an obvious way out of the predicament.

“This house is a laboratory because it allows people to visualize the possibility of going back to certain solutions that were implemented many years before us,” he said on a recent video call. “There was an ancient technology around water, but it was easier to put everything in pipes and forget about it.”

Chief among those technologies is the simple act of harvesting rainwater, which falls robustly in the region in summer. The house, which is situated within a 200-hectare (494-acre) nature reserve in the mountains of Valle de Bravo near the municipality of Temascaltepec, is connected to a system that captures, stores and recycles rainwater, making the property completely self-sufficient, in terms of water.

The sloping site has trenches that funnel rainwater from the terrain’s higher areas and from the home’s roof into a 15-foot-diameter reservoir next to the residence. Four cisterns in the basement store, filter and treat the water for use in the home.

“Once you see the water system working, you understand that it is possible and not so difficult,” Sánchez, 54, said. “But if I were to just explain it in words, people might be afraid because we have forgotten those ancient practices around harvesting water.”

The home’s owner, Enrique Olvera, 48, had no problem deciphering the message. The founder and head chef of the acclaimed restaurant Pujol in Mexico City, he is renowned for re-imagining traditional Mexican cuisine.

“Javier and I are walking the same path,” he said on a video call.

A weekend home, the house is part of a development called Reserva Peñitas, which was designed to provide water self-sufficiency for 80 families. The community has an interconnected hydrological system with 12 reservoirs and a network of 9 miles of planted bushes and hedges alongside low wetland marshes, allowing it to hold more than 30 million gallons of rainwater.

Each house has its own rainwater-capture apparatus, as well as access to the larger communal network. During rainy season, from May to October, many of the homes, including Olvera’s, harvest so much rainwater that the excess is fed back into the shared system.

“The surplus of water creates humidity, the humidity helps wildlife in the area, and it evaporates and becomes part of the clouds and eventually rain,” Sánchez said.

Or, as Olvera put it, “People have forgotten that water doesn’t come from the sky. Water comes from the earth.”

In the basement, the house’s chemical-free treatment system collects wastewater and converts it to gray water, for use in toilets, and the on-site orchard. There, with the help of the landscape designers Philodendro, Olvera has planted apple, pear, plum, citrus, avocado and macadamia trees.

While the site is designed to exploit rain, the house itself must be protected from it. It was built using rammed-earth construction with golden clay that was found during excavation. The 2-foot-thick walls naturally insulate the home’s interior and regulate hot and cold by leveraging the natural properties of clay.

“The walls must have two things: a base made of concrete, and a cover, because the walls cannot be in contact with rain,” said Aisha Ballesteros, the JSa partner who led the design.

The wide overhangs that shelter the earthen walls from rain also allowed Ballesteros to incorporate several covered patios, including an open-air dining area with a wood oven and grill where Olvera enjoys cooking for his family and friends.

Having worked with Olvera for nearly a decade — JSa designed five of his restaurants, including Pujol — Ballesteros has noticed a change in him lately. “He’s more relaxed and interested in the simple things in life as a luxury,” she said.

At his retreat, water becomes just such a luxury. The reservoir is lined with native wetland plants like water lilies and cattails, which help filter the water. During hot months, the reservoir doubles as a cold plunge pool. The site also includes an outdoor hot tub, an indoor sauna and a gym.

“It is a living process,” Sánchez said. “You feel the tension of life because you’re using the water at the same time you are enjoying it visually. It’s a functional landscape.”

For Olvera, this tension is his favorite part. “The whole experience of this place is about contemplation,” he said. “At the house, you are a part of the natural system; you cannot abstract yourself from it. That’s the beauty of being there.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










Today's News

May 11, 2024

An embarrassment of style at the Independent

Massive fossil donation helps Brazil's National Museum rise from the ashes

UBS donates major American landscape photographs to National Gallery of Art

Surrealism reigns at Tefaf Art Fair

Cass Elliot's death spawned a horrible myth. She deserves better.

Group exhibition at Kunsthal Mechelen explores the fountain as an artistic object

'Size matters: Scale in Photography' on view at Kunstpalast Dusseldorf

Homeowners who planned to demolish Marilyn Monroe house sue Los Angeles

Salon 94 presents 'Ione Saldanha: The Time and The Color'

He sang 'What a Fool Believes.' but Michael McDonald is in on the joke.

Buxton Contemporary unveils major exhibition 'The same crowd never gathers twice'

Exhibition features five works of Niki de Saint Phalle's late-career Tableaux Éclatés series

Yorke Antique Textiles publishes "Ceremonial Textiles of Japan: 18th to 20th Centuries"

Collection of Baroness Gabriele Langer von Langendorff tops one million at Roland Auctions NY

Impressed, but not transported, by 'Spirited Away'

Artist debuts "Reverie Unbound" in solo exhibit in Santa Fe

Roberts Projects opens a survey of paintings from 1998 to 2015 by Eberhard Havekost

Interdisciplinary artist presents newly commissioned sculptures at Detroit Institute of Arts

Bernard Pivot, host of influential French TV show on books, dies at 89

A waterfront house with the message 'all or nothing at all'

Lawns draw scorn, but some see room for compromise

In Mexico, a house that returns to the well

What does 'post-emerging' look like in today's dance landscape?

London Gallery Weekend announces events highlights, artist commissions and curator bursaries

7 Tips to Invest in Diamond Jewelry

The Allure of Indonesia: Unveiling the Beauty of Teak Outdoor Furniture

6 Tips to Make Your Next Game-Launching Event More Exciting and Engaging

How to Maximize Your Compensation After a Car Accident?

Thriving Career Paths with a Computer Science Degree

Prime-CC.com Review Is a Comprehensive Guide to Accounts & Features

Siqi Qin Advocates for China's Cultural Diversity

Sprawling landscape of personal finance

Music Therapy: Performance at Sunrise Senior House

Yongwen Dai: Shaping the Next Era of Design with Cutting-Edge Innovations

Choosing the Perfect Drawing Tablet for Aspiring Artists




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful