Casa Malinalco’s skilled landscape design is geared to pass the test of time, to be rediscovered day in and day out, to comfort, to refresh, to soothe and reinvigorate. It is not in any way subordinate to the architecture of the house; the fact is that it is the other way around!
Grupo de Diseno Urbano, situated in Colonia Condesa, Mexico is a landscape design consultancy headed by Mario Schjetnan, “My practice is interdisciplinary, having had the opportunity to deal with different scales of urbanism and from executing small and simple to large and complex landscape architecture projects. We at GDU like to unite social concerns, aesthetics and increasingly, ecology – all by way of interpreting and celebrating Mexico’s rich and diverse culture,” he believes.
GDU designs in a way in which the building is always subordinate to the landscape. The firm is founded on the principal, Mario Schjetnan’s natural flair for design and more than adequate attention to detail informed by a comprehensive study of plants and materials.
Accompanied by his able team, he takes on projects with a full sensitivity shown to the client be it a private individual, a corporate or an institute. “We believe very much in a communication and interaction with the client or community in all our projects. However, this intention does not take away from a creative and sensitive involvement and proposal.” He shares.
Malinalco is a village of small houses and narrow streets in a subtropical valley 110 kilometres southwest of Mexico City. Still largely agricultural, it is divided into eight barrios each with a small colonial church dating from circa the 16th century.
Built in 1985 Casa Malinalco in spite of being the designer’s first project is not short on any aspect of good landscape design. It comfortably interacts with the architecture, topography, the climate and the cultural history and comes across as a simple, yet alluring solution with a strong personal approach imprint.
The site is all of 1100 sq.m. and had on it an old orchard prior to the new house which is L shaped. The new house has a courtyard which is flanked on one side by the living room, dining room and the kitchen and the bedrooms on the other. Apart from the courtyard a second garden becomes a part of the charming view for the inside of the house.
The courtyard reeks of invitation and is an image of peace and romance. It has an unassuming yet timeless quality, surrounded by lush plants around its periphery it is paved with long and narrow cobblestones in a geometric pattern which is bisected by a small rill connecting a stone basin with a square reflecting pool adjacent to the living room.
A wall in a shade of bright pink serves to offset the earthiness of the surrounds. Live vestiges of the old orchard, coffee, banana, mango and citrus trees are cleverly retained for their look.
A sustainable measure which is intertwined in the design assimilates runoffs and passes them through the orchard to an absorption well.
Seen in Casa Malinalco’s landscape design are strong references to Spanish and Moorish gardens, which when merged with sensitivity to the topography give the final plan a tick in every box.
Mario Schjetnan, when asked about his future plans and his dream assignment, responds by saying, “Yes, from the point of view of a specific typology, I would like to deal with a cemetery and a chapel. Why? I would like to explore all of the ideas about death, life, light, darkness, landscape, building, spirituality and construction.” Amen to that!
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs Courtesy Gabriel Figueroa, Jerry Harpur, Francisco Gomez Sosa