House + House = Home

Trip Start Apr 15, 2009
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Trip End Jun 17, 2009


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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Thursday, July 22, 2010

BEAUTIFUL HOMES BY HOUSE + HOUSE ARCHITECTS

As I stood in the small courtyard, I was embraced in a symphony of color, texture, light and shadow.  Built on a tiny lot just 37’ X 52’, the house is the creation and the home of Cathi and Steven House, a talented and aptly-named husband-and-wife architectural team based in San Francisco and San Miguel de Allende.  

The Houses have used the elements of the traditional Mexican courtyard house to create a complex series of rooms and passageways that blur the line between indoors and outdoors and mask the small dimensions of the lot. 
From the mostly enclosed entry foyer, one walks past the covered-but-unenclosed main stairway and along the courtyard under a colonnade roofed with traditional wood beams and exposed Mexican tiles.  

Incorporating a more Modernist idiom but in a hand-crafted way, large expanses of glass, in thin, hand-welded flat metal frames, visually connect most rooms to the courtyard and further blur the line between inside and out.  The experience of moving through the house; inside, then outside, then inside again, provides a connection to the rhythms of the seasons and the light and temperature of each.

The connection to nature is further enhanced by the textures of the building materials and the integrity with which they are used.  Hundreds of small stones have been placed by hand to create the courtyard and the steps up toward the studio and around the corner to the master bedroom.  The columns rising from this stairway are stone cylinders, alternating in smooth and roughly-dressed bands.  
  
 Layered on top of the complexity of spaces and textures, whimsy abounds.   The pebbled stairs are interrupted by a yellow concrete step that escapes the staircase to form the edge of the courtyard fountain/hot tub.  The surface of the concrete kitchen countertop is interrupted by random pieces of the granite from which the entire countertop could have been made.  

The metal balustrade of the main staircase is a riot of spirals and other less regular wiggles.

Barbara and I were able to enjoy this extraordinary architectural experience as part of the weekly house and garden tour sponsored by La Biblioteca.   In addition to the architects’ own home, we also toured three other houses designed by the couple.  Each explored similar ideas, but the architect’s own home brought the ideas together in the most satisfying and accomplished manner.  

La Biblioteca is the intellectual and cultural heart of the Gringo community in San Miguel, and a major contributor to the quality of life here.  La Biblioteca sponsors at least two lectures and/or concerts each day, weekly films, and other events.  Funds raised from this tour and benefit the less fortunate residents of San Miguel de Allende.  


 
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