Luis Barragán’s El Pedregal inspires contemporary home

Agua 210, a powerful residential design by Mexican architecture studio HEMAA, draws on its modernist context and the work of the country’s master architect Luis Barragán

geometric grid facade at Casa Agua
(Image credit: César Béjar)

Dominated by its grid façade, strong materiality and clean, geometric volumes, Agua 210 is an impactful residential design created by Mexican architecture practice HEMAA, led by Alejandra Tornel, Jose Miguel Fainsod and Santiago Hernández Matos. What a quick, close-up glance doesn’t reveal is that this noble home is part of the iconic residential landscape of the Jardines de Pedregal, the Mexico City development created by modernist architecture master Luis Barragán.

The area, also known simply as El Pedregal, takes its name from the petrified lava that covered the area when the Xitle volcano erupted some 1,600 years ago (pedregal means ‘rocky place’). In the 1940s, Barragán undertook a residential experiment to transform it into a place that unites visionary architecture and nature, resulting in well-known works such as Casa Prieto-López, which was recently bought and restored by businessman and art collector César Cervantes. Agua 210 sits in the same family of houses, proudly announcing its presence through tall, sharp volumes and a nod to the area’s roots. 

verdant landscape engulfing concrete at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

The architects wanted to create a contemporary home that is a ‘reinterpretation of a house from the 1950s’, while also maintaining the all-important relationship of the building with its natural surroundings. Basing their design on the abstract footprint of an outline that Barragán himself created, the team at HEMAA worked across two main axes to compose a series of spaces that offer everything from privacy to openness, and from warm domestic comfort to cool, sharp lines.  

A verdant garden engulfs the home, elevating the composition. ‘As a visual finish, a succulent garden serves as a space for contemplation and silence,’ explain the architects. The green space also features a piece by Tezontle Studio that draws on the sculpture garden by poet and artist Edward James in the Huasteca jungle. 

The spacious interiors balance cool concrete with soft timber and bespoke joinery that wraps entire rooms. Large windows confidently cut out of the façade frame the views of the greenery and landscape beyond. Meanwhile, grey quarry stone cladding on the façade elegantly hints at El Pedregal’s heritage and rocky nature, bridging past, present and future.

paved terrace and greenery at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

living space joinery and bookshelves at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

cabinet joinery at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

soft timber interior at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

wooden floor and picture frame window at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

sculpture in garden at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

roof terrace with seating at Casa Agua

(Image credit: César Béjar)

INFORMATION

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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor 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) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

With contributions from