"House 004 Los Zacatitos"
11.01.13 | Wallpaper Magazine
A remote Mexican community has become a unique opportunity for Vancouver architects Javier Campos and Michael Leckie to explore variations on the desert house. Inspired by the utopian desert dwelling of midcentury modernists such as Rudolf Schindler and Richard Neutra, the duo have developed the theme through a series of four residences in Los Zacatitos, a scenic spot in Baja California. The off-grid homes reflect the dramatic topography of the area, as well as the beauty and simplicity of the desert environment.
Drawing on references that range from local adobe houses to the contemporary Californian lifestyle, the four residences have passive heating and cooling systems based on traditional desert architecture. Local surfers were consulted about wind patterns to develop low-impact ventilation strategies.
“The house is the environmental system; you can’t separate one from the other,” insists Campos, who formed his studio with Leckie in 2009. “We imagined the house as a lens for experiencing the landscape,” says Leckie. “The architecture itself is a way to modulate the environment, to capture the wind and control the sun. Each house is a singular, sculpted response to the site.”
the first Los Zacatitos house, built in 2003, was conceived as three structures linked by a series of courtyards. The second home, finished in 2011, sits on a plateau and features a large hybrid roof built around a 100-year-old palo blanco tree. The third one, completed in 2012, is on an exposed site close to the can and protected by modular panels with gaps for cross ventilation.
House number four (pictured) is perched on a steep rocky knoll and, like the others, plays with light and shade for dramatic effect. Patterned perforations allow wind to move through the concrete house. The top, cantilevered volume contains two bedrooms and acts as shading for the ground level. During the day the pool reflects sunlight onto the supporting wall, while at night it becomes a light box illuminating the structure. The designers have also taken the indoor/outdoor aesthetic to a whole new level: instead of being an extension of the interior, the outdoor space is, in fact, the main living area (although the kitchen/dining area can be closed off during hurricane season).
Campos and Leckie have developed a special relationship with this place and both feel protect of its ecologically vulnerable area, which could easily be destroyed by over-development. The designs for their four projects are really architectural homages to the unique site. “We wanted to respect the wilderness of this place,” stresses Leckie.