Casa Chia - Sayulita, Mexico

  • by Captains & Cowboys
What inspired you to go to Mexico and work on this project?
We've been traveling to Sayulita for nearly 20 years and I had decided I wanted to find some work down there because we simply love the town and the tropical climate opens up endless possibilities in the realm of design. I met the owner at his local restaurant, La Rustica, and we hit it off. He told me about some opportunities he was thinking of and I simply raised my hand and said "I'm your guy." The rest is history. I imagine we will have a long working relationship in the local area.

What was your favorite part of working on Casa Chia? 

The collaborative team that worked on the house was very fun. MFGR did the schematic massing and program and we also helped to work out overall materiality of the exterior and then the owner worked on taking that from us and worked with local artisans to make it all a reality. Letting go of the reins can sometimes lead to an unsuccessful solution but in this case it worked out to everyone's satisfaction. Having so many skilled builders and makers lets our mind imagine endless opportunities but it also forced us to think a little differently. We're used to lasers, CNC's, computers, and the digital world, however, the analog reigns supreme in this particular built environment. We were forced to look at problems under a different lens to find simple solutions that were relatively simple to build. 


How did the Casa Chia project compare to projects that you normally do based in Bozeman? 

Cold weather forces you to think of a residence differently. Snow loads, snow shoveling and everything cold ultimately leads you in certain directions. With Casa Chia, it was fun to use a large bi-fold door and not worry about how it performed in the winter months. We also implemented a cooling shaft in the basement to circulate air throughout the house to help keep it cool in the summer months which can get extremely hot. This landscape is really small because it's on such a small downtown lot but we're excited to work down there more to have the opportunity to play with the landscape's interaction with the architecture.


 Nature is a true inspirational factor for you, was it harder to draw inspiration from the landscape and environment in Mexico than it is in Bozeman?

It was actually very similar. We have skiing, they have surfing. We have rivers to fish, they fish the ocean. We both value our communities and the people within which is always a big driver in our design process so it felt very similar. While two different towns entirely, Bozeman and Sayulita both share similar challenges. They both are facing a huge influx of people who want to call it home so trying to maintain the qualities of the town without loosing their respective perks is inherently challenging. As long as we respect the landscape and the communities I think we will always find inspiration. 


What was your creative process with Casa Chia in terms of ideation, design, and production? 

Casa Chia is on an extremely small lot so space adjacencies and overall program were hugely important from the get go. The owner was pretty specific in what he wanted and needed so we were able to hit the ground running with the architecture. Like I said previously, we let him take the baton and run with the interiors and he was also the project manager of the build. I was fortunate enough to go surfing, I mean visit the site and help him out with minor design decisions along the way. We were confident in his ability to design the interiors and work with the builders because we've seen other projects he has done personally that were very successful. It was actually a great foot in the door to designing in Mexico because it would be exceptionally hard to do it with out someone with so many connections and so much experience. We hope to have a satellite office down there in the coming years so we can be more inclusive in the process and make sure all the little details are executed appropriately. 


Did you run into any curveballs that made you rethink how you were going to approach this project - how did you deal with those? 

We didn't face too many challenges because the owner was able to field any of the major problems. I think the biggest challenge is that Mexico just moves slower to a different clock. In the future, I would think that scheduling will be the biggest challenge. With so many skilled craftsman and women I think the opportunities are endless. When curveballs do come, we know to be patient, sit back and swing for the fence when the opportunity shows itself.


Where do you see yourself working on your next project? Is there anywhere in particular you'd really like to go?

We're up for any challenge. I think the fun part of architecture is finding the problems and solving them according to site, climate, client, etc. We're up to travel anywhere so we'll see where that takes us...



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