Casa Tello

By Nina Tory-Henderson

Casa Tello, PRODUCTORA
Luis Gallardo
 

Casa Tello by Productora epitomizes the context of Cuernevaca, ‘the city of eternal spring’.

The Mexican city Cuernevaca gets its name from the Nahuatl phrase Cuauhnāhuac, meaning “surrounded by, or close to, trees”. It has a long history of being an oasis of sorts, loved for its abundant vegetation and year-round temperate climate; Aztec emperors held their summer residences there and it remains a favorite escape for residents of nearby Mexico City.

The family home is nestled in a lush garden, staggering down and across the site’s slope to form a series of pocket gardens and terraces, which amount to half of the small property. Skirted by a low stone wall, the garden envelops the home, softening the building’s white monolithic form.

Casa Tello is made up of four volumes, each with a five-by-five-meter footprint. These identical forms sit according to the landscape, skirting existing trees and following the site’s contours in a string of stepped cubes. These staggered boxes create a series of offset spaces both in plan and section, forming interesting visual and spatial relationships both internally and externally. When moving through the house, outlooks onto the garden change across the split levels, dramatically framed by large openings; internally vistas across the stepped levels visually link the living areas and their various daily activities.

This staggering also allows for a high level of porosity within the home. No doors or partitions separate the living spaces on the ground floor — even the master bedroom’s entrance remains open. The split levels grant each living space its own intimacy and programmatic separation while maintaining a generous, open and expansive quality throughout the dwelling. The double-height dining room and a grand staircase connect the living areas to a central core while visually articulating the staggered spatial arrangement of the home.

The architects employed a thrifty construction system of load-bearing hollow-brick and beam-and-block-concrete flooring throughout. The materials are left unfinished, forming a simple but highly textured palette. Interior red-brick walls wrap down to become the floor finish, which then extends to pave the external terraces, blurring the threshold between interior and exterior space. The underside of the beam-and-block-concrete flooring is left exposed to form the ceilings throughout — a robust and economical choice which also adds a level of detail and tactility through the subtle variation of color between each block. In contrast to the textured interior, the white rendered exterior becomes a mute canvas for the vegetation, a backdrop for its vibrancy and color.  

Productora describes its work as ‘the production of clearly legible projects with limited gesture’. Casa Tello does just this; through direct spatial and material language Productora has created a timeless home in direct conversation with the surrounding landscape — a small domestic oasis in ‘the city of eternal spring’.