Honor Award

Malinalco Private Residence
Malinalco, Mexico

Mario Schjetnan, FASLA / Grupo De Diseño Urbano, S. C., Mexico City

Project Statement

The surrounding open areas in this Malinalco private residence are a sequence of transitional gardens, terraces and outdoor rooms that allow a diversity of rich experiences of settings and places. The different ambiences combined with the endemic vegetation and the presence of running water along the paths, provoke a reflection state and the landscape contemplation.

Project Narrative

This project has a lot of life to it. It’s very much of the place with the rusticated stone and is so well executed. The planting strategy is excellent.
—2012 Professional Awards Jury

Malinalco Residence is located in the southern portion of the Malinalco Valley, in a setting of old coffee and fruit orchards, where a system of ancient “apantles” or open air irrigation channels persists. The Aztecs chose this high valley area to erect a citadel; its strategic position made the Spanish conquest of the area particularly difficult. The Spaniards eventually succeeded in colonizing the area and built an important Augustine convent, a cathedral and eight churches in each of the different barrios.

From the remaining Aztec ruins, amazing downtown views and landscape surroundings can be appreciated. This confluence of archeological remains, historically valuable architecture and the green rainforest vegetation with almost mystical air make Malinalco an attractive place for relaxation, rest and contemplation.

Our client, an american businessman and his wife, wanted to build an extensive new garden and guest house, as an expansion of their existing residence. The new garden should have a deep feeling of place, full of tropical plants and flowers. The only trees that existed in the property, a cluster of old fruit trees within a lava rock mound established the transition between the new proposed lake and the citrus and vegetable gardens. Within the fruit trees a rock cascade was set, establishing a place of meditation and repose.

Following the large scale urban planning of the town, one of the project’s prime motivations was the recollection and re-use of water. The pre-existing channels, which took the form of ancient “apantles”, directed the concept of the garden with the inclusion of a small new reservoir, water channel and cascades.

Beyond the lake there is an elevated area (set upon soil excavated during the construction) which recreates the feeling of a lowland jungle; this is the furthest point from the house, and features collections of orange lanterns that constantly attract butterflies, groups of agave plants and rocks. A citrus orchard and a vegetable garden have been placed to one side of the lot, making the most of a number of trees that were already there.

The new guesthouse and terrace, was set on the edge of the new lake, not unlike a Japanese tea pavilion. The architecture of clean lines, transparent walls and open veranda establish a strong contrast with the biomorphic and loose organic feeling of the garden. The pre-existing swimming pool terrace was expanded and connected to the garden and lake. The Malinalco residence is a project of transitional gardens, terraces, and outdoor rooms, establishing limitless experiences of settings and place.

Project Resources

Landscape Architecture and Architecture: Mario Schjetnan, FASLA / Grupo de Diseño Urbano
Director: Mario Schjetnan Garduño and Project Coordinator, Construction: Jorge Calvillo                                                         

Megumi Andrade Hashimoto, Student Affiliate ASLA; Silvia Rodríguez; and Rodrigo Hernández Covarrubias