Palma, Mexico: Wallpaper* Architects' Directory 2021

Joining the Wallpaper* Architects' Directory 2021, Mexican studio Palma balances minimalist, contemporary architecture with a strong sense of place through its residential work. Here, we visit its twin house project, Jilotepec 

Mexican house exterior with stone walls
(Image credit: Luis Young)

Emerging Mexican architecture studio Palma is defined by a minimalism that is rooted in its location, resulting in powerful yet humble residential designs in its home country. The dynamic practice's architecture is all about ‘excitement, freedom and friendship’, say the team.

Who: Palma MX

Partners Ilse Cárdenas, Regina De Hoyos, Diego Escamilla and Juan Luis Rivera co-founded Palma in 2016, almost straight after graduating from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) School of Architecture. In these past five years, their studio, based between Mexico City and the Pacific coast village of Sayulita, has been growing steadily, completing a range of works, from homes of various scales to playgrounds and art installations. 

The residential projects stand out in Palma's portfolio. Defined by simple shapes, unfussy volumes and a humble and natural material palette that feels at home in its context and within the local vernacular, the studio’s houses offer a refreshing minimalism, which is at the same time deeply connected to its place. The team love to experiment and revel in an approach that allows them to be ‘surprised' by what the design and building process brings.

They say: ‘We find it stimulating to work in such diverse and intricate environments. On one side is Mexico City, where the collective culture has learned to thrive and prosper within a hostile and chaotic setting, pushing designers towards a tendency to reuse and repair, making the most out of the available space. And on the other side is Sayulita, where the context has allowed us to design and build larger-scale projects while developing a close relationship with a team of people with whom we work, in a way that encourages experimentation and exploration on site.' 

stone wall house exterior

(Image credit: Luis Young)

What: Jilotepec

Rising from its gently sloped site, this set of twin stone cabins is one of the latest residential offerings by Palma MX. The two houses, conceived as private retreats and located in the outskirts of Mexico City, take their cues from the surrounding countryside views and in particular the mountains in the distance, which are abstractly mirrored in the composition's final form. 

The buildings, positioned next to each other, are built in local stone – and while other materials have been used, such as the earthy terracotta-coloured plaster on the front façades and the ceramic roof tiles, it is the stone that dominates the design's aesthetic. The masonry walls confidently delineate the domestic realm, wrapping around two paved courtyards at the front and rear of each house and creating a relationship between the two structures. An open-air, round fire pit between them helps unite the whole. 

Inside, the homes are clean and simple, featuring timber floors and crisp, white plastered walls. Exposed wooden beams hint at the roof structure while providing a link to traditional roofs in the region. One bedroom and one open-plan living space in each structure provide spartan but comfortable accommodation for guests.

stone wall house exterior

(Image credit: Luis Young)

Why: Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory 2021

Conceived in 2000 as our index of emerging architectural talent, the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory is our magazine’s annual listing of promising practices from across the globe. The project has, over the years, spanned styles and continents, while always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. Now including more than 500 alumni and counting, the Architects’ Directory is back for its 21st edition. Join us as we launch this year’s survey – 20 young studios, from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the USA, and the UK, with plenty of promise, ideas and exciting architecture. 

bedroom with wooden floor

(Image credit: Luis Young)

attic house with wooden floor and kitchen area

(Image credit: Luis Young)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from