When Mexico City-based architecture practice Mauricio Ceballos X Architects (MCXA) was asked to design a home in an ancestral place in Malinalco, it immediately knew that a minimal environmental footprint would be the key to success. The clients had carefully selected the sloped site for its unique micro-climate, abundance of mature trees and proximity to a pyramidal Aztec ceremonial center. To reduce site impact and to reference the site’s cultural heritage, the architects designed the house — dubbed Casa Mague — around the trees’ existing root systems. They also installed resource-saving technologies and used locally sourced, natural materials to blend the building into its surroundings.

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trees growing around home with wood slats for cladding

Completed last year, Casa Mague takes inspiration from nature in both its materials palette and design. Natural and local materials such as wood, stone and Chukum (ancient Mayan stucco) are used inside and out, while the home’s layout emphasizes indoor/outdoor living and steps around root systems to avoid disturbing any mature trees. Multifunctional spaces that open up to the outdoors offer flexibility, an important feature given the clients’ work-from-home setup during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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volumes of wood home in a forest
glass dining table near raw wood bookstands against the wall

“Starting from the pre-Hispanic cultural context, and the predominant connection with nature, the concept is based on the Mesoamerican worldview, where trees have a ritual meaning,” the architects explained. “The roots symbolize the connection with the underworld, the trunks the earthly human life and the cups the connection with the Gods. To emphasize this idea, the project is divided into three levels: the first one, a mirror base that gives continuity to the natural terrain and the roots of the trees, and allows the main volume of the house to give the sensation of floating; then, the living space, all on the same level where everyday life occurs; finally the natural outer cover formed by the foliage of the trees.”

framed pictures of plants near large white bed
open-plan living and dining area behind a glass wall

Casa Mague’s connection with the historic site has been highlighted with the inclusion of a pyramid-inspired outdoor space built with blocks of wood. The eco home also includes a rainwater harvesting system, gray and black water treatment, energy-efficient lights and sensors, low-VOC materials and facilities for composting and recycling.

+ Mauricio Ceballos X Architects

Photography by Diego Padilla Magallanes via MCXA