The attention-getters at Baja Beach House, in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, are the home’s vivid colours and playful elements.
Yet architect Greg Warner says that what he likes best is the contrast in building materials. “The play between the almost natural colour of the concrete and clean white, right next door — that playfulness between those two basic materials is my favourite part.”
The home’s architecture includes traditional Mexican courtyards that join its four structures, plus a water element gurgling through the property that’s located on the Sea of Cortes, at the bottom of the Baja California Peninsula.
Baja Beach House totals 8,000 square feet and includes the beach-facing main house that includes with living, dining and kitchen spaces plus a second-floor main bedroom. A courtyard leads back to another two-storey building with four bedrooms. There’s also a detached recreation building and a garage/utility building.
Building materials include exposed concrete, regional sand, natural granite, plaster and teak doors and windows.
Sustainable features include using local materials and thick walls that both protect it from hurricanes and insulate it.
Baja Beach House, completed in 2017, took three years to design and build.
Greg Warner, with Walker Warner Architects in San Francisco, Calif., answers a few questions about the beachfront home:
What was your inspiration for the home’s design?
When we’re doing something like this for a client, we’re mining for contextually significant things. We look at the orientation of where it sits on the property, the native plants and surround and, in this case, I was interested in how things were made differently in Mexico, particularly in contemporary architecture.
When we drove in the region, there were a lot of houses that weren’t as high level but had some really interesting materiality to them, a coarse-and-roughness to them. In the contextually older regional projects in (the city of) San Jose del Cabo, there are some really beautiful courtyard buildings that create interesting indoor and outdoor spaces.
How did you create the walls?
We wanted the concrete to feel as though it was mixed with the granite sand and gravel from the project site, and poured in sinuous lifts that mimic the bluffs and beaches nearby. It has that feeling of horizontal rifts of stacked wet sand. The rest of the house is made similarly. It’s then plastered over with a pristine white plaster that smooths everything out to the eye.
What were the challenges in building this residence?
Culturally it’s just different — the means and methods they build with are extremely different than what we’re used to.
In Mexico you’re required to associate with a Mexican architect and builder. We had to work very collaboratively with their team by law, but also just because of what it is they do and how they do it. They had a different zoning and approval process.
The climate there is tough and so the durability of the building had to be accounted for in terms of hurricanes.
Why did you use the vertical, stacked-glass windows?
It’s mostly just a play of light. It’s bright and it’s a relief from the intensity of light, and wind, and other things. We used the ability of how light transfers into the interior spaces — whether you have a horizontal large opening and big panoramic views, which are important, versus vertical slats.
What about the bunkbeds?
It was an opportunity to be playful and different. The idea of bunkbeds and increasing the amount of people who can be there seems to have gone over very well.
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