Designed by renowned Mexican architect Javier Senosiain, Nautilus is a whimsical shell-shaped house located in Naucalpan, northwest of Mexico City in the adjoining State of Mexico.
“….. The shaping and not the shape is what is mysterious …”
Architect's statement: At the end of the turn-around is the piece of land, with upward topography, where the Nautilus was built. It is limited by three of its adjoining properties because each of them has high buildings. The fourth adjoining property if to the west and has wide views of a green area with mountains in the horizon.
The construction area was defined since the first studies at the back of the piece of land, leaving the pedestrian and car access at the front as well as only one façade, the so called fifth façade in architectonic language.
To develop the design, shaping the area that will be inhabited we start from a deep observation of Nature’s principles: An observation that will let us to perform, as Bachelard would say, a poem of space where the concept flows from the inside, an organism dwelling. That is how it arouse, almost spontaneously, nothing is imposed. We find the shape instead of giving it shape, it is released from the outside; in other words, we attempt to help things to discover their shape. Here the ground is spiral.
The spiral appeared, it adapted to the land and for outline we draw such spiral, logarithmic. The model’s work led us to different changes until we realized that the volume asked for the Nautilus. When observing it through its mouth we found the protruding belly that seemed to float in the empty space; a space that at the same time was volume. I instinctively thought that it could suit the project; although I was worried that it might seem very forced and I instantly remembered that the television room was in that area, in such a way that it could be shaped to the belly protuberance.
I ask myself and think, is this the first time that I have copied an element of nature to adapt it to the project? To me, nature is the biggest source of inspiration but the respect thereto consists in observing it, extracting its essence, its principles; interpreting and not copying it. I think that the process has been interesting, amusing ... the best, as the little princess would say, it is the process of cultivating a rose more than the result.
When entering from the outside you go up by means of stair and when getting inside the Nautilus through a big stained-glass window, a space experience is generated as you live the sequence of the distance traveled, where neither the walls nor the floor or the ceiling are parallels. A fluid space in three dimensions that can be perceived in the continuous dynamic of the fourth dimension when you walk in spiral on the stair, with a sense of floating over the vegetation. Two elements are outstanding: the living room emerging from the inside garden and the dining room table coming out from the wall. A continuous, large, integral area liberating shapes and with changing lights that follow the natural rhythm of man’s movements.
The social life of this dwelling place flows inside the Nautilus without any divisions. Going up the spiral stairs, continuing through the hall, going through the television room sheltered in the Nautilus belly flows the space up the spiral stairs to the study room, where you can view the mountain’s landscape.
Behind the Nautilus is wrapped the intimate and service area: bedrooms, walking closets, bathrooms and the kitchen.
The metaphor would be to feel like an internal inhabitant of the snail, like a mollusk going from one chamber to another, like a symbiotic dweller of a huge fossil maternal cloister. In the mollusk mantle, the glands located along the edge produce a calcium carbonate liquid, which hardens the shell shape. In certain way, the liquid mixtures crystals in different layers that increases the strength of the outside walls, leaving a mother-of-pearl finish in the inside.
Similarly to the mollusk slime, the ferrocement, the construction system used to build the dwelling place, a plastic element that allows to be molded, almost like modeling clay in the hands of a child.
The grounding, walls, floors, ceilings and furniture work like a 4 to 5 cm. thick ferrocement eggshell, what gives the structural rigidity is the main shape in continuous spiral, of double curvature.
Literally, the dwelling place is a big snail structurally working as such, an evocative shell: resistance, protection, shelter .....
For ventilation, there are two underground ducts, when the outside air enters, the house gets cold or hot according to the year’s season, during hot weather the air is chilled and refreshes the house flowing through the snail in spiral; pushing the hot air upwards and going out through the high part of the Nautilus: On the other hand, when the outdoor temperature is cold, the air that comes in through the duct warms the house.
Since the beginning of the works the clients were interested in painting the inside walls with any material that would give the aspect of the mother-of-pearl of the Nautilus; for the outside they also insisted in copying the patter of the ocher lines of the snail. I was not quite convinced because I felt that it was like setting a stage; but as they identified since the beginning with the shape, I asked to paint one of the models to have a precise idea of the finish. I still think that in this work the snail determined the continuity of each of the formal, structural, space or functional details, because we always remitted to the original to find solutions to the problems. When I observed the model I was surprised to find that this finish was the ideal for the façade.
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