Coyoacán is famous not just for several streets with perfectly conserved buildings from the 16th century, or because the conquistador Hernán Cortés had a hacienda here, but also for the fact that in the 20th century this small town became the place of residence of many artists and intellectuals like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as well as the place of exile of Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated here.
The urban history of Coyoacán is dense with figures, memories and facts, a place not yet invaded by gentrification, a factor that prompted Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernández to look for a space where they could live, that would also accommodate the artistic experimentation of Reyes, which required space for installations, large sculptures in stone, metal and wood.
In the oldest part of the town, Reyes and Fernández were amazed to find a small industrial building from the second half of the 1980s, with a Brutalist look, in fair-face concrete.
This work of functional architecture, without partitions, ready for personalization and change, has been transformed over time, day by day, working alongside the builders, experimenting with different solutions and making use of local materials. First of all, half the building was demolished and reconstructed with a new facade open to the garden, maintaining the Brutalist spirit while revealing the two levels created inside.
Here books become an important presence; Pedro and Carla purchase about 100 books every month, using them as their main tool of research. So an entire longitudinal wall has been set aside as a structural bookcase, also in exposed concrete, organized on two levels with a balcony in the same material reached by a new internal staircase with cantilevered steps, rising from the living area.
Slate flooring forms a central stepped platform that brings volumetric articulation to the overall space. The living area is projected towards the artist’s studio, separated by a staircase like a domestic belvedere made with smooth cement blocks and lit by a glass roof paced by crosswise concrete joists that function as an efficient horizontal sunscreen.
The sculptural staircase separating the living room from the atelier is an isolated, independent volume, featuring the rhythm of the blocks that form its overall figure; from the double ramp of steps to the jagged profile of the top towards the roof, that borders the raised space.
The balcony overlooking the living area, facing that of the bookcase-wall, has a large rectangular opening whose inner border is colored yellow, matched on the level below by a slate vat containing a lush garden corner, with the kitchen and dining area behind it, furnished by a table and a custom ceiling lamp. The nighttime zone has four bedrooms, three for the family and one for guests.
Great care has gone into the design of the bathroom, lit from above thanks to a vertical skylight concealed by the shifts of level of the ceiling. With a stone bathtub and faucets, and a washstand-sculpture in shaped concrete, the bathroom conveys the impression of entering a sort of architectural grotto or a cave of the near future, an inhabitable sculpture, one of the many works seen inside this versatile and comfortable home-atelier.
Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernández
Pedro Reyes (born in 1972 in Mexico City) is a Mexican artist who works with sculpture, architecture, video, performance and participation. After architectural studies, Reyes founded “Torre de los Vientos,” an experimental design space in Mexico City that operated from 1996 to 2002. Together with Joseph Grima, he is co-founder of the “Urban Genome Project”.
Carla Fernández Tena (born in 1973), known as Carla Fernández, is a Mexican fashion designer from Saltillo, Coahuila, based in Mexico City. Fernández has gained international acclaim for her approach aimed at documenting and conserving the great textile legacy of the native communities of Mexico, transforming techniques and motifs from the past into contemporary abstract apparel, and demonstrating that the tradition is anything but static.
Project by Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernández