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Horseriders' Hostel, Angahuan, Mexico

Part 2 Project 2002
Agnieszka Glowacka
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) London UK
The village of Angahuan, Mexico lies near the volcano of Paricutin. The building proposed is a horse riders’ hostel at the edge of the village, from where multiple woodland paths lead down towards the lava. This form of ecologically sensitive tourism would provide a new source of income in the area to help stem the illegal logging carried out by the villagers, which is destroying the surrounding forests.

The brief is informed by the simple image of a “vaquero” resting up for the night under a cliff, in the shelter of a tree with his horse next to him. The intensity of the project comes through the elaboration of the basic necessities of habitation and of the intimate relationship between the rider and their horse. The occupants’ one to one experience of the building’s materiality and detail is intensively explored.

The building is cut into the landscape with a retaining wall of blocks carved out of local lava. The same dark material forms the floor and structural piers within the stables. The whole building works with its surroundings to gather and store rain water, ground water and grey water. The roof, woven from coconut fibre, channels rainwater into rubber storage bags. These soft containers are arranged and gathered to form sleeping spaces for the riders. Each watery bedroom vibrates gently as the horse changes position in the adjoining stable. The riders wash themselves in showers set into the retaining wall, whilst the horses bathe in adjacent pools. Grey water tanks are voids hidden within the wall depth. A shallow cave houses the kitchen which opens up onto an outdoor eating area shaded by spiky louvres. As the lava becomes saturated during the annual rainy season, the bathing pools swell until certain routes become passable only on horseback.

Agnieszka Glowacka


The village of Paricutin has been engulfed by lava. Only the Baroque steeple of the church rises out of the dark mass of stone. Visitors arrive at the nearby village of Angahuan where they hire guides and travel down a beautiful woodland path to the ruined village. We rode down to see it on horseback.

This project begins both at the scale of the detail and the scale of the whole landscape. The building seeks to find its place in the lie of the land, paying attention to topography, paths, (people and creatures) water percolation and sunlight. It also begins from an intense investigation into the properties of materials. This student thinks through making. She can see the strangeness in ordinary things and she allows this to lead her, through sheer persistence, into original designs.

The simple myth of cowboys resting up under a cliff is elaborated into a series of strange constructions. They speak of an intimacy between people, creatures and things. But this is not a sentimental essay in the primitive life. The designer acknowledges the sophistication of the situation, city dwellers dipping their toes in the natural world. The architecture plays a knowing game between the seemingly natural and the elaborately strange.

The building uses materials which are abundant locally or are by-products of local processes. The building design is actually generated from an investigation into the strange local climate and topography so it becomes like an organism, uniquely suited to its particular ecological niche. The lie of the land, the vegetation, the cycle of rainfall and local craft skills are all woven into the design from the outset.

2002
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