A Sublime Indoor/Outdoor Retreat in Mexico City

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By Robert Landon / Published by Dwell
On an undesirable lot in Mexico City, architect Yuri Zagorin Alazraki created a stacked home and lush garden.

"The longer I work as an architect, the more I want to deepen my skills as a gardener," says Yuri Zagorin Alazraki, founder of the Mexico City firm ZD+A. In building his own house in Mexico City’s Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood, his commitment has produced results that appear miraculous. In fact, they grow out of a carefully choreographed series of bravura design moves. 

A Sublime Indoor/Outdoor Retreat in Mexico City - Photo 1 of 5 - Architect Yuri Zagorin Alazraki’s refined home in Mexico City is oriented as a series of stacked boxes.

Architect Yuri Zagorin Alazraki’s refined home in Mexico City is oriented as a series of stacked boxes.

Alazraki was working with a lot that had little to recommend itself. Narrow and awkwardly sloping, it was squeezed between neighbors whose high walls cast long shadows. Remarkably he designed a house, completed in 2011, in which the interior spaces feel not just connected to, but also immersed in bright exterior gardens. 

A Sublime Indoor/Outdoor Retreat in Mexico City - Photo 2 of 5 - In the outdoor dining room, wire chairs by Harry Bertoia for Knoll surround a mango wood table made by a local carpenter, Diego Madrazo.

In the outdoor dining room, wire chairs by Harry Bertoia for Knoll surround a mango wood table made by a local carpenter, Diego Madrazo.

Just as remarkable, he managed to smuggle generous doses of natural light into spaces that seemed determined to be denied such a luxury. Tricks include white, highly reflective resin floors, an open floor plan, south-facing light wells, and a pair of oculi that bring sunlight through a rooftop garden all the way down to a practically subterranean ground floor. 

A Sublime Indoor/Outdoor Retreat in Mexico City - Photo 3 of 5 - The house features several courtyards, conveying an ever-present sense of indoor-outdoor living. Concrete walls are lined with yellow jasmine, and the wall sculpture is taken from Manuel Felguérez’s fence for the National Anthropology Museum.

The house features several courtyards, conveying an ever-present sense of indoor-outdoor living. Concrete walls are lined with yellow jasmine, and the wall sculpture is taken from Manuel Felguérez’s fence for the National Anthropology Museum.

Given the degree of difficulty, the home’s ground level measures as the most impressive. A stepped garden, at once rocky and radiant, reaches down toward the main living space. At the opposite end of the room, a patio with vine-covered walls adds its own share of light, air, and greenery. And so, the living room, which could have been tunnel-like and forbidding, feels like part of one continuous outdoor space. To amplify the connection, roughly finished concrete walls echo the rugged stones in the garden. 

A Sublime Indoor/Outdoor Retreat in Mexico City - Photo 4 of 5 - The master bedroom is shaded by exterior slats in cumaru, a sustainable tropical wood. Alazraki designed the custom bed frame.

The master bedroom is shaded by exterior slats in cumaru, a sustainable tropical wood. Alazraki designed the custom bed frame.

On top of the poured-concrete ground floor lies the truss-and-concrete-beamed second floor. Except for the door to his daughter’s bedroom—she lives with Alazraki part-time—there are no barriers between any rooms on the first two levels. And beyond a sitting area lies a patch of manicured lawn that, when the floor-to-ceiling windows are open, turns the indoor-outdoor space into one big, bright room. "The first two floors have a very fluid plan," Alazraki says, "which is ideal, because I spend much of my time alone here, and I inhabit the space in a very fluid way." 

A Sublime Indoor/Outdoor Retreat in Mexico City - Photo 5 of 5 - A vintage Lightolier pendant and sleek Arclinea cabinets by Antonio Citterio stand out against a wall paneled in reclaimed pine in the kitchen. Seating is a mix of Bertoia wire chairs and armchairs by the Mexican designer Hector Esrawe.

A vintage Lightolier pendant and sleek Arclinea cabinets by Antonio Citterio stand out against a wall paneled in reclaimed pine in the kitchen. Seating is a mix of Bertoia wire chairs and armchairs by the Mexican designer Hector Esrawe.

The third and final floor is formed by steel cage, much of which cantilevers over the back garden. It includes a light-saturated bedroom, a bath, and a very private terrace. "It is my private realm, the place where I spend most of my time," says Alazraki. "There is a long weekend coming up, but I feel no need to leave the city. I am going to spend my days up there on my little terrace."