The Casa TEC 205 is located very close to the Chipinque ecological park, an urban landscape dominated by the Sierra Madre, omnipresent backdrop to the city of Monterrey. This house is the first prize in a raffle organized every year by the Technological University of Monterrey to raise funds for its students.
The Casa TEC design follows a number of complementary motives. The first, it could be said, was to preserve four large extant trees on the site, three walnuts and a trueno. In a context where house developments often raze all remnants of a prior life on a site, we decided to not just preserve these trees, but to make them part of the project. Since the house occupies approximately half of the site, and because the trees are distributed across its slope, the house necessarily surrounds and frames them. Now embedded in the house, the trees definitively characterize the spaces they inhabit.
The second motive was to open up the public spaces to the sky and the views, and to maximize the area of green space in those parts of the site not occupied by the building’s footprint. Because the land slopes steeply down from the entry level we were able to invert the conventional arrangement, placing the bedroom floor below the entry floor instead of above. This has various advantages. The bedrooms take advantage of the earth’s thermal mass, bringing natural freshness to the house and lowering cooling loads during the many months of high temperatures in Monterrey. This arrangement allows the more public floor to enjoy the better views that it’s higher position affords, and provides direct access to the garden for all the bedrooms.
A final consequence of this arrangement is that the outdoor public areas, the pool and grill and outdoor entertaining space, is shifted off the ground plane and onto the roof. The roof terrace is accessible directly from the street entry, from the more private breakfast terrace off the family room, and from inside the house by way of the main stair. It is conceived as a large exterior room, delimited by walls and windows that frame the fantastic views of the Monterrey mountains.
A third motive was that each major interior space of should enjoy a direct connection to its own corresponding outdoor space, be it a garden, a patio or a terrace. By this means, each room is associated with a different landscape, giving it a unique character and an individual light, be it reflected, direct or filtered. In order to gather the outdoor spaces into the project, a series of large wall planes intersect in the house’s center and project into the surrounding outdoor space, creating large surfaces that run continuously between the interior and the exterior spaces of the house. Rather than create an architecture of discreet closed volumes, this constructivist assembly allows the walls to be read as independent, plastic elements, their transgression of the building enclosure effectively blurring the distinction between inside and outside space. Having always admired the use of color in Mexico, from its vernacular architecture to that of the masters Luis Barragán and Ricardo Legorreta, we applied strong colors to these walls not only because we typically use color in our work, but as recognition and homage to this great heritage as well.
In the interior of the Casa TEC, the color has been the protagonist again. The pigments applied to walls run inside and outside, emphasizing their autonomy and determining the character of each space. In some rooms, we have used vibrant wallpapers that create murals to provide color and design ( Mural Wallpaper ). In others we have placed Mexican tiles with geometric patterns and bright colors.
We have chosen furniture designed by leading international designers and prestigious brands with other more generic but equally beautiful pieces. For example, in the living room there are two sofas by Patricia Urquiola designed for Kettal and a Polder sofa by Hella Jongerius for Vitra. The large pendant lamp was designed by Arik Levy for Vibia, while the TamTam floor lamp was designed by Fabien Dumas for Marset. Two of the seats, the Slow Chairs, were designed by the Bouroullec brothers for Vitra.
Some of the products included with the house were designed by Moneo Brock, including the colorful, geometric carpets and the “PlexiJazz” screen of translucent acrylic and colored vinyl, which receives visitors in the entrance hall and establishes the general character of the interior design. The large carpet derived from the herringbone pattern of wooden boards in a parquet floor is our design, as is the loveseat Sonia D, made for Ecus.
In its very conception, the project incorporates bioclimatic measures to minimize its ecological impact. In Monterrey, the largest climactic energy loads occur in the cooling season, when high temperatures mix with high humidity to make a very uncomfortable atmosphere. The heating season is essentially non-existent.
The several patios with their mature trees create a cool and pleasant microclimates, offering natural light and clean air to the interior rooms. Besides the dappled shade offered by the trees, the house interior is protected from excessive insolation by a combination of exterior shutters on the windows to the east, vertical screens located to the side of the windows to the west and horizontal eaves over them to the south. The sun is in this way allowed to enter directly only a few hours each day in the cooler months, and never in summer. In addition, the windows are placed so as to take advantage of the prevailing east-west winds, inducing natural cross-ventilation.
The location of the bedrooms on the lower level, against one-story tall retaining wall allows them to take advantage of the stable, cool temperature of the earth’s mass. The bedrooms are exposed to the garden facing northeast, the optimal orientation for these rooms.
The location of the pool on the rooftop takes advantage of the continuous processes of evaporation and nighttime to maintain a cool thermal mass in this location. The roof, in addition to having a thick layer of thermal insulation, is protected from excessive overheating by pergolas and sunshades.
To complete the passive design we have treated carefully the potential energy loss via thermal bridges, insisting on the continuity of an adequate layer of insulation and of course all windows incorporate thermal breaks and double glazing. Inside the Casa TEC, we selected low-energy appliances and electric lighting systems based on LED technology.