- Casa Nivana, a desert hideaway by RED Arquitectos
This time, however, they’ve embarked on a new build - Casa Nivana - commissioned by its owner, an American musical theatre director and professional pianist who wanted a home near Cerritos in Baja California Sur, between Cabos San Lucas and La Paz, a place where she could switch off, relax and re-energise. A charming place that also has its extremes due to the desert climate typical of this region, which completely transforms during the short rainy season. Therefore, in order to be sustainable, the architectural response needed to take account of the challenges posed by the site and by the climate. Susana Lòpez opted for passive solutions: the long part of the volume was oriented towards the favourable winds from the Pacific, and the short end faces south to limit the impact of the blazing hot sun. The solid, rendered cement house was built on a sloping plot, keeping the roof at street level so it would merge into the terrain and the desert vegetation, without altering the landscape. Casa Nivana’s liveable rooftop provides unobstructed 360-degree views of both the sunrise and sunset, with one side of the home facing the Sierra Laguna Mountain range and the other side directly facing the Pacific Ocean.
The decision by RED Arquitectos to use simple, easy-to-source construction materials is a direct response to certain contingencies - the zone hard to access and there is no specialist local labour force. Built from brick and concrete, nothing inside the house has been painted or even tiled - every flat surface was made using a mixture of concrete, sand and water. Casa Nivana is an off-the-grid home and powered only by solar energy. A water filter system has also been installed to ensure clean drinking water throughout, a conscious choice to eliminate the need for plastic bottles and reduce the home’s carbon footprint.
Casa Nivana has a simple yet elegant design, created with high ceilings, big open spaces and a glass facade across the entire southwest side of the house that directly faces the Pacific Ocean. The rooms in the house were designed to open up the connection with nature, blurring the lines between interiors and exteriors with a large outdoor living space that can also double as a performance area for the owner’s concerts. These high-walled outdoor spaces improve the internal microclimate and at the same time add privacy for people staying here since the idea is also to host artists of all kinds in residence.
Casa Nivana has been designed to interact with the extremely inclement weather of the Baja California desert and stands out for the poetry of its integration with nature and with the emotions in the client’s memory. Indeed, the salt-water pool was intentionally placed in front of two tall cactus plants on the property that connect with the owner as physical representations of her deceased mother and father. The owner decided to pay tribute to her parents and their love for the ocean by leaving the cactuses where they are, near a body of water.
The result of a very close collaboration between the architects and the client, Casa Nivana is a testimony to the respect for the nature it stands in and presents as a warm, welcoming and authentic home and property in the middle of the Baja California Sur desert - a true creative hideaway.
Project: RED Arquitectos, Susana Lòpez
Collaborators: Ruben Mercado. Angelica Azamar
Location: Cerritos, Baja California, MX
Photos: Bruno Calderon Diaz de Leon