Photocatalytic Cave MM

There are particular projects in architecture, which stand out for their originality and the challenge they represent. Such is the case of the adaptation of a cave, a natural chamber which was the first living and working space for human beings, that only rock art allows us to imagine how they inhabited. It is there, in the cave, where we find the first refuge of man in history, characterized by being a place with very little light, limited ventilation, and high humidity. At the same time, a safe place, a naturally fortified refuge where a man can isolate himself from the world, be protected from the weather and socialize in tranquility.

The Photocatalytic Cave is a 70 sq. m project, located under a house in the upper part of a hill, to the west of Mexico City, an area where it is common to find caves created decades ago, to extract sand as a building material. The project was carried out by designing and working together with the client, his construction team and suppliers, making Amezcua’s design evident, to achieve a space like no other.

The house located upon the cave was designed half a century ago by Manuel Rocha Díaz, an enthusiastic follower of postmodern architecture, at the request and with the participation of the sculptor Ernesto Paulsen.

In the original project of the house, the architect Rocha designed a large envelope that forms the area we call social or public, a multifunctional space: living room, dining room, terrace and distributor of all private and service areas — a node of environments— whose monumental roof of convex shape is lined by thousands of pieces of oak wood cut transversely and placed by hand. This node now adds to its distribution a staircase that goes 12 meters down, to find the entrance to the Photocatalytic Cave.

To make use of this natural hollow and enjoy it with friends, the client requested a recreational space, where spending time alone or having a party for dozens of people is possible, thanks to its distribution and the use of high-tech products, that make the space habitable, enduring, and mutable.

The cave and its design also carry the intention of generating experiences similar to the products that the owner’s company develops: high-end apartments, designed by firms of renowned international architects in the most representative areas of Mexico City. This site promotes and generates lifestyle experiences for the real estate clientele of MM.

Several actions were carried out to achieve the project. The first was to secure the place structurally, placing metal lintels as in coal mines, supported on columns. The second was to carve the roofs, creating domes, which gain height and physically distribute load forces to the perimeter walls, in addition to directing natural water runoffs to places where they could be properly contained or guided. Finally, the humidity of the site was substantially reduced, which, in combination with the predominant natural element — limestone — produces bacteria and fungi. For this last action, passive techniques were used, such as natural air circulation and anticorrosive materials and, on the other hand, active equipment such as air injectors, dehumidifiers, and heaters that dry off the environment. In addition to this, the inclusion of the material Krion® stands out, which is characterized by being thermo-formable with photocatalytic properties. This was used in two retro illuminated covers that catalyze when in contact with natural or artificial light and, as a result, act as air purifiers and light diffusers.

The project consists of five galleries -one of them isolated. The first one is the entrance, which includes the kitchen, bar, and part of the closet; the second, contains more closet and exhibition space, in addition to the living room and TV area. A third gallery incorporates the cellar and smoking area; the fourth, integrates the dining room and access to a balcony; and, finally, a separate gallery from the rest encloses the toilets and its anteroom.

Upon entering, the first thing you see is one of the retro illuminated pieces that resemble a calla lily flower in its shape, and that, due to its dimensions and interference with the ceiling, questions the guest about whether he enters a cave or a space to be defined. This piece completes the entrance hall and distributes it between the kitchen and living room galleries, in addition to making a game of reflections with the closet mirrors and visually protecting the entrance to the toilets.

The kitchen and bar were equipped with what is necessary to host parties and serve formal dinners of up to 12 people. This service space has a storage/display cabinet closet, made of black wood with copper plates and inked mirrors. This piece of furniture conceals a door that leads to the toilets, where the focal piece is a washbasin manufactured on-site with marbled concrete, cast with a special formwork by the artist Rodolfo Díaz Cervantes of Taller Tornel, whose result refers to the texture of the strata of the cave.

The central gallery of the cave is the one that houses the living room and TV area, whose curved armchair was cast following the shape of the wall and is supported by additional movable armchairs. Instead of opting for a coffee table, several pieces of different sizes of solid wood were fragmented, serving as support tables or mobile benches.

The gallery that precedes the dining room has, on one side, an intimate place to smoke cigars or have a drink and, on the other, a wine cellar and coffee area. Finally, the last gallery displays the second backlit piece, which is attached to the ceiling. In addition to illuminating the dining room table, this piece emulates the effect of an x-ray, exhibiting a series of blocks placed by the owner –carrying each a written intention – following the recommendation of the artist Emilio García Plascencia.

This place has a clear and respectful dialogue with the design of the house that Arch. Rocha and sculptor Paulsen made. Its beauty is in its nature and the reading of time observed in the strata of its walls; in an intervention that softens the space and transforms it into a cave that shows the advances in design, uses and technology that have occurred throughout the thousands of years that human beings have occupied them. It is a space that awakens the intuition and the most primitive desires of men.

LOCATION: Mexico City, Mexico
YEAR 2018
PHOTO Jaime Navarro