15°39'47.0" N 96°33'29.4" W
By Isidoro Michan-Guindi
Punta Cometa, Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico. Raimund Abraham’s house in a subtropical jungle. On a small peninsula jutting out from the Pacific shoreline off an unpaved road, a T-shaped wooden gate leads to a stone path guarded by a weathering steel sculpture. The site appears to have been carved. Fundamentally abstract forms collide with the topography. The path slips between precisely displaced cubic volumes and terraces. The enclosed volumes arranged like islands are anchored in the landscape. The jungle permeates the plan, which at the same time has stark boundaries that reject the exterior. These volumes contain the program of the house: the kitchen, the studio/master room, the visitors’ room, the bathroom, and the utilities tower.
The plan is based on the model of standard bricks (none of which are cut). Furniture, floors, columns, and walls are made of brick, becoming a continuous surface that you use, that you walk on and that surrounds you. The natural bricks are laid and mixed in different types of bonds. Flemish bond, cross bond, running bond, stack bond stretchers, and stack bond soldiers become a singular syntax interrupted by slits. The brick fabric far from having a nostalgic effect of various patterns, is a subtle organic whole. Like the surrounding jungle, if you take a closer look, it is full of specificity.
Over the house, a hovering farmstead-like roof provides shade to the in-between volumes. The massive slanted roof is supported by an over structured system of wooden beams with complex joints. This aesthetic excess seems to be meant to withstand the heavy subtropical winds, a breathing ribcage with ceaselessly flowing air. There is no ambiguity between the elements that make up the house.
Perhaps the most important elements of the house are the fixed tables of varying dimensions located on the terraces. In his final lecture, The Profanation of Solitude, Abraham stated that he “needed a place to cook, which is not the beginning of the house, but is the house,” highlighting the pervasive relationship between architecture and food. The long wooden table on the central terrace (seating twelve) and everything that unfolds around it would seem to afford corporeal and incorporeal events: rituals, conflicts, confrontations, eating, drinking, which eventually lead to elimination processes commonly regarded as repulsive and secretive. In his house, however, Abraham claims that the toilet is a chapel, a place of spiritual repose. A low and dark passage leads to the bathroom, where there is a shift of material from brick to concrete. The elimination and cleansing processes are left exposed by a cut in the roof, the only room in the house with a view to the sky—a monument to ritualized functions of the body.
The house thus parallels the digestive system where the human body is intrinsically active and its cycle is in synchronization with its space. Far from being an “edible beauty” as Salvador Dalí would say about Art Nouveau, the house is a raw ritual of dwelling.