A mountain retreat maximises the power of nature through intuitive design.

Located in the mountains to the west of Mexico City, Casa Cosecha de Lluvia sits intimately near the heart of where the effects of living impassively are felt. Instead of ignoring them, the bar is being raised with intention. Guiding an innate connection to the landscape, three distinct rain-harvesting pavilions – a main residence, art studio and bathhouse – come together designed by JSa and Robert Hutchison Architecture.

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Casa Cosecha de Lluvia is located in a community of landscape-driven homes called Reserva el Penon, set across 450 acres.

Sitting as part of a larger community of landscape-driven homes referred to as Reserva el Penon, there is a compounding effect from the collective behavioural effort of using and reusing water and other energy sources. “We saw the project as a way to test out a new way of thinking, which we could then hopefully apply to future projects as well,” architect Robert Hutchison says.

Each home in the reserve is required to incorporate rain harvesting, most coming from the individual home’s rainwater harvesting system and a small portion coming from the reserve’s reservoirs. “We wanted to see if we could harvest 100 per cent of our water from our individual site rather than depend on external sources,” Robert says. “The result is a 100-per-cent-water-autonomous project that collects and treats all the rainwater, greywater, and black water on site.”

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Nature-inspired, hard-wearing materials like steel and timber ensure the home’s permanence in the landscape.

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In the kitchen, an island bench made of stone and stainless steel contrasts with the surrounding timber tones.

Opting to showcase the mechanisms supporting the home, the table is flipped, and the curtain is drawn on the wakefulness of impact. “Casa Cosecha has a basement that was built to showcase the water systems in a very didactic way,” JSa Arquitectura director Javier Sanchez says. “The result is to inspire people to understand that they also need to include the systems, not only bedrooms and bathrooms but all the systems that make a house work in today’s compromised environment,” Javier adds.

As the harvesting and reuse potential of the natural elements within design is becoming better understood, its integration is becoming an endemic and core part of practice. A counter to the climatic conditions, Casa Cosecha de Lluvia comprises a series of smaller structures that incorporate holistic principles, surrounded by bio-agricultural gardens and an orchard that build on the retreat’s self-sufficiency. Connection with the environment is constant, as the main residence looks out to the landscape in all four directions, while all three structures have vegetated roofs. The bathhouse, comprising a hot bath, sauna, steam shower and washroom, with a cold plunge pool in the centre, is oriented to the sky above and water below.

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In a region where rain capture and reuse are uncommon, the permaculture principles underpinning the home challenge the traditional approach. “Recently, there has been a greater sense of urgency,” Javier says, “We are so far behind that we are in ‘debt’. To rebalance this reality, projects today need to generate surpluses, as it is not enough for buildings to be net zero if they can do more.”

“For us, the most sustainable designs are the ones that simply use less,” Robert says, further echoed by Javier, “By designing buildings to last longer, we won’t have to rebuild them, and together with integrating more flexibility, these buildings will be able to become part of new programs in the future.”

Not only does the integration of systems that leave a smaller footprint matter, but it is also the visual reminders of our reliance on the environment that may lead to meaningful change.

This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 49: Force of Nature.

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Casa Cosecha de Lluvia flanks a shallow pond, reinforcing the significance of the element of water in its design.

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