Rammed earth walls with striated patterns
frame Tatiana Bilbao's Ajijic House


Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao specified rammed earth for the walls of this weekend house built for a modest budget on the shore of Lake Chapala, in the Mexican state of Jalisco (+ slideshow).

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao

Despite the small budget, the client asked Tatiana Bilbao to design a house of ambitious scale that combines open family areas with more private spaces, and makes the most of views towards the lake and surrounding hills.

Bilbao was searching for a suitably affordable material to use as part of the brief. She chose rammed earth after seeing a school completed in Oaxaca by fellow Mexican architect Mauricio Rocha, who then introduced her to a specialist contractor.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao

"We designed the building in response to the material's structural properties," Bilbao told Dezeen. "In this way, we could meet the budget because we didn't need to add an extra structure, an extra finish or extra insulation."

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao

The choice of material also determined the shape and proportions of the house – the use of geometric forms aids the structural strength of the earth walls, so the architect arranged the plan as a series of interconnected squares.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao

A cubic volume at one end of the building contains the bedrooms and bathrooms, while three other square shapes overlap to create the open-plan living, dining and kitchen area, as well as two terraces facing the lake.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao

Around the bottom portion of the walls, which use earth from the site compacted into dense bands, the architect added pigment to some of the layers to create a decorative stratified pattern.

This layered effect is visible on the internal surfaces and continues to a height of approximately 240 centimetres, adding a "human scale" to the lofty spaces.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao
Ground floor plan – click for larger image

The house rests on a concrete plinth and is capped with a concrete roof that rises steeply above the living area and projects over a terrace adjoining the bedrooms.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao
First floor plan – click for larger image

The angled roof adds height and a sense of the building opening up to the views, while another sloping section above the bedrooms creates space for a studio upstairs.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao
Section – click for larger image

Flooring inside is made from end-grain tiles of Mexican pine wood that were installed by a local carpenter. The same simple and affordable wood is used throughout the interior to further reduce costs.

Casa Ajijic by Tatiana Bilbao
Elevations – click for larger image

Photography is by Iwan Baan.

  • Eynak East

    Well it’s rammed earth from top to bottom, aint been in a place so non-rotten, just a couple of col’mns propping up this pocket of un-probl’ms. Air n’ breezy probably not that easy, but jeezy they smashed that patterned wall you feelz me?!

    Now it aint ma cuppa-tea, but rich with a Mexican modernity, a modernist approach with a Mexican architectural coach, clean lines for nice times, of Barragan decent or maybe a new precedent?

  • Kalum666

    So many toilets…


  • ebaum

    Should of got Rick Joy… the true rammed earth master.