Suzanne Lovell Inc

Architecture

Casa Etérea… a Glass House

February 08, 2021

The designer said (courtesy of Design Boom), “The vision was to create a theatre to nature so sustainability was crucial in achieving a truly complete integration with the environment.”
Image courtesy of: Design Boom, photographed by: Kevin Scott and Prashant Ashoka

 

 

Twenty minutes from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico sits a “glass house.” Casa Etérea is perched above San Miguel de Allende, on the slopes of the extinct Palo Huerfano volcano. The house is “hidden” amidst the desert’s mesquite trees so privacy and isolation are two mediating benefits!

The architectural gem was dreamt up by the Mexico-based Singaporean writer and designer Prashant Ashoka. The idea for Casa Etérea came to Ashoka in 2017 when he visited Mexico for the first time. He had been working in Singapore as a writer and photographer; but he was drawn to San Miguel de Allende for its reputation as a “destination for artists.”

Ashoka was brillant in utilizing site orientation, efficient ventilation design, and insulated glass. These factors help the house self-regulate temperature in the semi-arid desert climate.
Image courtesy of: Amazing Architecture, photographed by: Prashant Ashoka

Casa Etérea is a 75-square-meter sustainable engineering feat. The dwelling draws all of its power from solar energy and the water supply comes from collected rainwater. Furthermore, the glass exterior is fitted with a striped UV-reflective coating that is bird-friendly… it is visible to birds while remaining reflective to the human eye.

Ashoka was determined to build a writer’s retreat in this special landscape so he bought two acres of wilderness, even knowing full-well there were no water lines or electricity. In order to leave the landscape unscathed, the foundation was built entirely from rocks collected on the mountain.

Ashoka first arrived in Mexico with two suitcases and moved into a small rental apartment in Mexico City. At 28 years old, he was set on a new adventure and willing to risk everything to build a new life for himself!
Image courtesy of: Amazing Architecture, photographed by: Prashant Ashoka

Ashoka wanted to angle the two main components at 120 degrees in order to replicate his favorite mountainous landscape feature: a V-shaped ravine. Visible from the back garden and exposed glass shower, the ravine features a bubbling waterfall during the rainy reason.

The interior is quite small and it is a combination of the designer’s Southeast Asian roots and Mexico’s craft culture. Collaborating with a local furniture studio, Ashoka accessorized with pieces such as twin Balinese jute lamps that hang above each side of the bed and a vintage earthen porcelain vase from Shanghai that rests on the bedside table.

The antique jade vases once served as grain containers for Chinese sailors, they come from the Malaysian island of Borneo.
Image coutresy of: Female Magazine Singapore

The kitchen has an open layout and exposed wooden ceiling beams. The walls are finished in concrete and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors frame the vistas as though they were photographs inside a picture frame. Blackened walnut wooden cabinets are topped with beautiful antique jade vases. Finally, walnut bar stools sit on a cream and teal Turkish Oushak rug underneath a stunning porcelain countertop.

The living area is separated from the bedroom by a fireplace. Stepping inside further, you can see that the sliding glass doors open to a decked patio and pool area that is organically shaded by the native pomegranate and olive trees. To finish off, the rooftop staircase serves duel-duty as a utility room.

A view from the bathroom.
Ashoka clarified that this is the structure’s only interior wall. The stunning copper bathtub has a sloped back and a hammered finish. This one-of-a-kind piece was made by artisans in Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico.
Image courtesy of: Dwell

The rugged topography and wet season make a 4×4 vehicle necessary for accessibility. Ashoka says (courtesy of Dwell), “There were periods of time where the roads would be impassable and the build would halt for weeks.” But now construction is done and the home is available for rent. The designer further said, a portion of the rental income is earned directly by the community, and our guests are given the opportunity to engage with our neighbors.”

So whether you want to go horseback riding with Concho, the seventy-year-old neighboring ranger or on a guided hike with a local botanist… it seems as though Casa Etérea has everything that you might be looking for vacationing in Mexico!

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