Casa de las Balaustradas
Elevating a cultural cliche to reveal a lost beauty
Stylized balcony balustrades date back centuries as one of the most universal elements found in architecture around the world. Once perceived as a symbol of affluence shaped by the hands of craftsmen, balustrades and the curvature of their quintessential form now are more a token of faux elegance. On the beaches of Puerto Penasco, Mexico, the decorative curved balusters are ubiquitous, found on the porticos and patios of nearly every beachfront property in one form or another, and its influence is seemingly forgotten. The Casa de las Balustradas brings new life to this familiar form through the playful reimagining of its purpose.
The vacation home on the private beach of Playa Miramar holds several surprises inside its simple form. Upon approach, the white block of the home radiates against the clear blue sky, the smooth stucco finished to withstand the harsh ocean air and sun. A barrel vault springs from the main entry to guide visitors in from the street. There, a small, quiet courtyard separates the main house from the guest quarters to bring daylight into both volumes.
Inside, the largest self-supporting brick boveda in the city spans across the central living room. Peering out from the guest quarters balcony back towards the water, the solace of the beach is framed, uninterrupted by the brick vault. The gentle arch of this vault is gracefully juxtaposed by the constant level line of the horizon splitting the sea and sky. Glass extends from the floor up to the vault, disappearing between the joints of the brick. Buttressing either side of this space are bedrooms, each with their own unique brick boveda dome.
The balustrades are found dotted around the home in unexpected locations. At the front of the home, the balusters are stacked in a grid to create a screen for the upper level guest room. A similar configuration is found at the entry court leading up to the guest quarters, ascending unrestrained from the landing. Finally, the balusters reassemble in a more recognizable fashion as the balcony balustrade, yet without the heavy top rail weighing them down.
On the beach side, stairs descend to the sand from the patio sheltering the southern bedrooms and living space. Tall glass walls blur the boundary between the interior and exterior. Whether peering out from beneath the great vault or from the shade of the recessed patio, the waves crashing onto the sand and the sun glistening on the expanse of the Sea of Cortez are always just within reach.