American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Main Plan. (Photo: GDU File)

View of south entrance from south garden. (Photo: Jerry Harpur)

Main courtyard and water reel. (Photo: Jerry Harpur)

Dining and living room from one side of L-shaped courtyard. (Photo: Jerry Harpur)

One wall of the house was painted pink at the suggestion of Architect Luis Barragan. (Photo: Gabriel Figueroa)

South entrance detail. (Photo: Gabriel Figueroa)

View of central patio from roof terrace. (Photo: Gabriel Figueroa)

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Malinalco House, Malinalco, State of Mexico, Mexico
Mario Schjetnan/Grupo de Diseno Urbano, Mexico City, Mexico
client: Irma Romero

"Eloquently captures the colors, textures, and culture of Mexico. Wonderfully contemporary; the lush plants make it organic and so inviting."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

Built since 1985 as a weekend house, Casa Malinalco is one of the designer’s first and still one of his most convincing mediations between architecture, topography, climate, and cultural history. Malinalco is a village of small houses and narrow streets in a subtropical valley 110 kilometers southwest of Mexico City. Still largely agricultural, it is divided into eight barrios each with a small colonial church dating from the 16th or 17th centuries.

The L-shaped house was built on the gently-sloping, 1,100-square-meter site of an old orchard. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are aligned along one axis, with the bedrooms along the other, creating something akin to a traditional cloistered courtyard. Taking advantage of the moderate climate and establishing strong links with the landscape, the common rooms are designed as a covered terrace entirely open to the courtyard on one side. On the other, shuttered windows overlook a second garden. Each bedroom also has its own private patio in the back; still more outdoor space is available on the flat roof.

Heavily planted along its perimeters, the courtyard is paved at its center with long, narrow cobblestones that create a geometric pattern. This patio is crossed by a small rill connecting a stone basin with a square reflecting pool adjacent to the living room. A bold pink wall faces one side of the garden; the color was selected by Luis Barragan, who felt it was necesary to set off the muted colors of the landscape. Below the house are the overgrown but still productive remnants of the orchard, including coffee, banana, mango, and citrus trees. Farther down the slope are surviving agricultural buildings and a new guest cabana.

In a climate that includes rainy and dry seasons, the landscape is designed to minimize both runoff and irrigation. Cobbled pavers allow percolation of storm water; runoff passes through the orchard to an absorption well near the cabana. Grey water from the house is recycled into the orchard through a sand filter.

With its simple lines, spare detailing, and Barragan colors, but with a plan suggestive of Spanish or Moorish cloister gardens, Malinalco House is an eloquent combination of modern and traditional design, at once urbane and respectful of its village setting.

Project Resources

Landscape Architecture:
Mario Schjetnan, FASLA

Mario Schjetnan, Director
Jorge Calvillo, Collaborator
Jose Luis Perez, Collaborator
Jose Luis Gomez Hidalgo, Collaborator

Construction Supervision:
Jorge Calvillo


View of the pool in the paved courtyard. (Photo: Gabriel Figueroa)

View of south entrance from reflecting pool. (Photo: Francisco Gómez Sosa)

Sand box. (Photo: Francisco Gómez Sosa)

Reflecting pool. (Photo: Francisco Gómez Sosa)

Reflecting pool. (Photo: Francisco Gómez Sosa)

Reflecting pool. (Photo: Francisco Gómez Sosa)

Orchid and stone patio. (Photo: Francisco Gómez Sosa)

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