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Casa Desnuda: Taller Estilo architects in their own home

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Inside the private home of architects Victor Cruz and Atahualpa Hernández Salazar of Taller Estilo in Mérida, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The starting point at Casa Desnuda, or Naked House in English, is a bare rectangular block. There are lots of them, exposed throughout the private home of architects Victor Cruz and Atahualpa Hernández Salazar of Taller Estilo. 

Big decisions were made based on the proportion of that 20-by-40-centimeter block. But first things first. 

Every detail, including ceilings, walls and windows, are in perfect proportion at Casa Desnuda, say architects Victor Cruz and Atahualpa Hernández Salazar of Taller Estilo in Mérida, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

From the street, the Santiago property that has been Victor and Ata’s home since 2015 stands out for its giant climbing vines on the second floor. This hangs over a garage whose facade comprises various pieces of recycled wood, of various colors, from past projects.  

Get out your slide rule. Every detail, including ceilings, walls, and windows, was designed to a mathematical formula. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The home started with its challenges. After setting aside one area to build an income property, Victor and Ata were left with a 6.5-by-27.5 meter property that faces west, toward the punishing afternoon sun. 

Pockets of shaded garden space between the garage and the main house cool the property immediately. Walking through the garage, visitors are bathed in a cooling blue glow from the skylights. Once inside, the airflow is refreshing because the house goes vertical. On one side is a wall of windows that, when slid open, create a cooling breeze so strong that the gas stove is unusable because the flame flickers out. The architects sacrificed a meter of space to accommodate the air shaft.

Even the pool design comes down to a formula, say architects Victor Cruz and Atahualpa Hernández Salazar of Taller Estilo in Mérida, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The rear of the main house has a dramatically tall folding glass door. It faces two sets of staircases that appear to reach the sky. Later, they were able to acquire the adjacent property in the rear, making an L-shaped lot. The new section contains a work-in-progress guesthouse. 

The floor, ceiling, and window modules are all in proportion, sized in ratio to the building blocks. The pool in the rear patio has a sly reference to Victor and Ata’s inspiration: A small decorative detail at the bottom of the pool, very easy to overlook, is a plain rectangular silhouette of such a block. 

Casa Desnuda’s garage door, which conceals the front entry door, was made of wood squares recycled from past work sites. Victor Cruz says when they were first installed, the wood pieces were much brighter. To the left is a rental house they also built on the same lot. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Upstairs is a mezzanine with a handsome study. A door that leads outside to a rooftop herb garden anchored by the towering vines seen from the street. These, too, offset the hot afternoon sun. 

The lush roof garden, visible from the street, includes built-in planters for herbs. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

At the very top is the main bedroom-bathroom-terrace suite, a peaceful retreat in which to perch. 

When asked it if was hard to be their own clients, Victor answered with a resounding “Yesssss! It was terrible, actually.”

Well-known in Mérida for building homes for over a decade, they put a lot of pressure on themselves to get it right. Not so much for their reputation, however, but for their own sense of contentment.

The main bedroom upstairs has an adjacent patio. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“Since we were moving a lot,” Ata says. “I mean, before this house, we lived in five different houses, so we wanted a house that we can just settle and relax and say ‘OK, this is it, this is the house.’ ”

What Victor and Ata like most about their place is the way it seems to call to them when they’re away.

“All the time, we want to come back to the house,” Victor says. “When we come back from work we say, thank God we’re home.”

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