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House in El Toron

IUA - Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos

Mazunte, Mexico

June 2020


Ignacio Urquiza Seoane


Anaís Casas, Paulina Buenrostro, María del Mar Carballo, Ana Paula De Alba, Sacha Bourgarel


Reserva El Torón


Onnis Luque


Regrettably, we are witnessing a failure of coastal urban design, based on a harmful model of division into micro-lots that seeks the greatest profit but only serves to transform the landscape, damaging the ecology. Instead of seeking to understand these zones, the same model is followed as in urban areas. Meanwhile, the architectural projects are unsuitable, hasty and disconnected from the time and place where they are built.

In light of this, how can we improve the way things are done? What can architecture do to help change this dynamic? What values must future beach house projects embody?

It’s clear that public policies to ensure appropriate land-use planning for these zones must be strengthened. However, where such planning does not yet exist, we believe it is necessary to act in a manner coherent with the context, while thinking about the common good. If we intervene in these spaces it should be with slow, tranquil architecture that takes care of and protects our environment. An architecture that, for once, places the surroundings before the user.


El Torón Reserve is located on the coast of Oaxaca, at the southernmost point of the Mexican Pacific coastline and a few kilometers from Mazunte, between Mermejita and Ventanilla beaches. It is a protected 30-hectare area characterized by mixed vegetation and rugged topography, with steep cliffs and hilltops creating hard-to-reach spots and a unique natural beauty.

The House in El Torón is the first to be designed within this reserve, and its conception emerged from two premises that enabled us to question and rethink the idea of a house on the coast. The first was to show maximum respect for the site, and the second was to seek to understand and learn from the vernacular and contemporary architecture of the region, which represents so many years of accumulated wisdom and experience, and tends to offer unmatched functionality.


For the House in El Torón we imagined a lightweight architecture that questions the scale, the physical relationship between the building and its surroundings, and the use of a number of elements such as palm roofs. An architecture where we imagined living only on terraces or on a coastal palisade. An architecture that “touched” the site as little as possible and, where it did, that was as careful and respectful as it could be.

The construction employed only local materials; certified tropical wood for the structure, door and window frames, local stone—mostly from the excavation itself—for the foundations and containment walls, and stucco and clay from the local area that require little maintenance. The structural system combined timber and concrete to create frames with 4.8-meter modules bearing lightweight slabs in each of the volumes. These are covered with the chippings from the stonework, endowing them with a thermal quality that, together with the frame design, minimizes the energy required to cool the rooms.

No large machinery was used in the construction process, with all the materials being brought in using an ATV and a trailer, following narrow pre-existing tracks. The perimeter landscape was cordoned off during the works and 80% of the vegetation that was located under the footprint of the buildings was replanted in the immediate surroundings.

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