A Curvaceous Brick Home Follows the Edge of a Forest Near Mexico City

A Curvaceous Brick Home Follows the Edge of a Forest Near Mexico City

By Anna Dorothea Ker
LANZA Atelier’s Forest House is a triumph of artisanal expertise and sensitivity toward nature.

About 40 minutes from downtown Mexico City, a low-slung brick volume sits just past the edge of a thick forest, sheltered from the road by towering pines. An undulating wall connects two buildings—a one-story family home and a smaller, two-level guesthouse—formed in dialogue with the forest it fringes just outside the town of Ocoyoacac, Mexico.

LANZA Atelier’s Forest House is a triumph of artisanal expertise and sensitivity toward nature. 

Respect for nature was the foundation for the Forest House, the first residential project built from the ground up by Isabel Abascal and Alessandro Arienzo of LANZA Atelier, a young architecture studio based in Mexico City and Madrid. Situated far from the urban throngs of Mexico’s capital, the property serves as a peaceful home for a young family—the husband, an engineer who specializes in tunnel construction, the wife, a homemaker, and their two school-age daughters.

The home’s imposing entrance conceals a tranquil inner courtyard. 

The curved brick wall was formed in relation to the pine forest on which the property is situated, and it continues throughout the main residence as an interior partition. 

The exterior wall’s gentle curve conveys a sense of enclosure. 

The main living area leads out onto an expansive garden through glass French doors.

Given the plot’s unique location between the forest and a highway, the architects considered it a top priority to create a sense of sanctuary and retreat in the home. A curved brick wall serves as a protective external barrier for the Forest House, encasing the main residence from the surrounding environment and offering noise reduction, warmth, and privacy. 

The Forest House’s detailed design includes concrete ceilings with openings that allow planted trees to stretch toward the sky.

Fluidity and natural light characterize the central walkway that connects the main residence's living spaces. 

Proportion and contrast allow for a fluid experience of space when moving through the home.

While the home’s terra-cotta-toned brick wasn’t the architects’ initial choice of building material—they undertook early experiments with blocks of local earth—the so-called "Puebla brick" quickly proved itself worthy of using for the construction. Each artisanal brick features hand-cut edges that were made using a painstaking technique the architects employed to ensure the walls’ smooth curves. 

Throughout each season, the variation in the brick’s natural earth tones is accentuated by the elements, which further reinforces the home’s identity in harmony with the surrounding forest. 

The Forest House’s warm-toned living room looks out onto a verdant garden enclosure.

The soft undulation of the outer brick wall continues playfully throughout the heart of the family home in a lattice form.

Afternoon sunshine casts a graphic beam on the wall of the master bedroom. 

Encino oak enhances the warmth of the brick walls throughout the open-plan living space.

Natural light illuminates the central living spaces, where glass French doors lead out to an expansive garden planted with a variety of native trees and cacti. In the afternoon on cloudless days, the sun peeks through the home’s latticed brickwork, casting deep shadows onto the warm-toned walls. When darkness falls, the living spaces are primarily illuminated by floor and wall lamps that exude a soft, subdued glow.

Curved forms reverberate throughout the property, including this spiral staircase that connects the two floors of the guesthouse.

The curved form of the outer wall’s edge was achieved through meticulous hand-cutting techniques to shape the bricks.

Each brick in the curved wall was custom cut to ensure a smooth, graduated effect.

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A subtle juxtaposition between clean graphic lines and gentle curves also resonates throughout both dwellings. The gentle slope of the ceilings enhances the sense of being cocooned from the elements, while the curved exterior wall that continues into the central hallway imbues the residents’ spatial experience with a playful sensibility. In contrast to the traditional straight axes of residential architecture, movement through the house is guided by the arching central passage that emerges into the lofty living and dining areas. 

An expansive inner courtyard offers a secluded open-air retreat fringed by the towering pines of the surrounding forest.

Clean lines and gentle curves are juxtaposed throughout the Forest House.

Bulbous floor lamps gently illuminate the living spaces when darkness falls.

While the home is closely tied into its site, the inspiration for its design lies more than 1,000 miles away. Shortly before embarking on the Forest House in 2015—the same year Abascal and Arienzo founded LANZA Atelier—the architects visited the unfinished buildings of the National Art Schools of Cuba in Havana, designed by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi between 1961 and 1965. Only two of the five domed structures were completed, and have since been partially "conquered by the jungle," explains Abascal. 

Today, the billowing brick complex in Cuba stands in tribute to Latin American modernism—and the influence of its design is clearly reflected in the 6,458-square-foot Forest House on the outskirts of Mexico City. More than just an exquisite residence, the tranquil family home is a noteworthy proof of concept that establishes its creators as ones to watch as they continue to make their mark on Mexico’s spirited architectural scene.

The floor plan and side elevation for the Forest House.

Related Reading:

Architect Cristián Izquierdo Builds a Multifamily Complex—and Instant Community—in Santiago

A Concrete Beach House in Mexico Opens a Portal to Epic Surfing 

Project Credits

Architect of Record: Isabel Abascal and Alessandro Arienzo, LANZA Atelier / @lanzaatelier

Builder/General Contractor: Jaime Reyes

Engineer: Rubén Hernández, RHAA Ingenieros

Design Team: Celina Bonadeo, Jessica Hernández, Alejandro Márquez, Isabel Abascal, and Alessandro Arienzo

Photography: Dane Alonso 

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