Project NameThe Hill in Front of the Glen
|Project Name||The Hill in Front of the Glen||Location||
Commissioned to design a “refuge” in the forested countryside outside Morelia, a city in central Mexico, local architecture practice HW STUDIO drew from a childhood memory of a frightened child timidly peeking from out of the bed sheets to design a ghostly house that disappears into the landscape. Camouflaged by a green roof, the low-slung, half-buried building takes the form of a shallow hill, the only visible traces being the concrete walls that discreetly emerge from the ground before dipping back in. Nicknamed “The hill in front of the glen”, the residence strikes a delicate balance between hiding and opening up to its lush surroundings, succeeding in accentuating rather than dominating nature.
How can one feel protected? This question lies at the heart of the HW Studio’s design. Like a toddler that seeks protection from night-time ghosts and fairy tale witches when the lights are turned off, the act of hiding under the covers is tied to our primal instincts. With this in mind, the building’s vaulted shape embodies the concept of shelter and protection in its purest form – conveniently, it also allows the house to be seamlessly embedded into the landscape as well as supporting the weight of the planted roof. “It was important for us that you don’t notice the architecture”, the team says, and indeed, the house has become one with its surrounding nature. In fact, part of its charm is that it has to be discovered.
In order to enter the house, you have to traverse a very long passage, at one point passing an old pine tree whose presence distorts the linearity of the flanking walls – a symbolic gesture that encapsulates the project’s respect for the natural landscape. Wide enough to walk comfortably alone, yet narrow enough to discourage accompaniment, the entryway was purposefully designed, as the architects poignantly remark, as “a pilgrimage of solitude”.
The ceremonial passageway extends inside the house in the form of a corridor that divides the building into an open-plan living area and a private section with three bedrooms, with full-height glass walls on either side bringing in plenty of daylight. While the public area enjoys wide views of the pine and oak forest, the bedrooms have been designed with privacy in mind, opening up to an intimate courtyard that only offers tree-top and sky views.
Left exposed, the vaulted concrete structure suffuses the cavernous interiors with a brutalist aesthetic that nevertheless feels cozy. A humble palette of stone, wood and steel - including hardwood floors, tree-trunks turned into benches, and wall-mounted steel clothes rails - complements the concrete surfaces, imbuing the minimalist interiors with a primitive sensibility in perfect harmony with the surrounding forest.
With no television or internet, discrete lighting and concealed appliances, the house truly feels like a monastic retreat, the ideal place in other words to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city, just as the owner requested.