16th Century Observatory Inspires Artist’s Rooftop Pool
“At night it’s very beautiful because you are in the center of this sphere. You can feel the temperature of the water and you even feel the gravity when you are in the center, and in one point everything around you is dark.”
The artist’s obsession with the original measurements and exact proportions of the Jantar Mantar Astronomical Observatory built in 1724 in India, led to this beautiful recreation of its exact proportions on the coast of Mexico, which, like the observatory that inspired it, is as the artist put it, “a way of knowing the universe”. But it is something more than a recreation.
“I would not call â€œmysticalâ€, but it is true that it is not just a scientific instrument. The swimming pool, in a certain way, could be interpreted as a sort of in-between space. When you go upstairs to the roof, you have this central empty space and a complete view of the landscape”.
Before creating the house, he and his family had been used to roughing it. They had camped on this very beach or others like it nearby. The holiday shelter he had long dreamed of is barely less nomadic than previous camp shelters on the nearby beaches. The artist’s work requires that he observe whales or birds that come there. Dolphins also have a very strong migration route along the Pacific coast.
Stripped to the bare essentials of privacy and shelter, it is simply an observation platform, with just four simple rooms underneath; two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.
All the four rooms just opens to the outside. The center is the pool. The whole concept â€“ and also the circulation within, the distribution and the measurement of the rooms follow that original plan from 16th century India.
Orozco engaged the talented Mexican architect Tatiana Bilboa who provided expert help with the building work: the technical drawings; permits, engineering and construction. She was surprised by the scope of the work:
“Initially I suggested basing the overall shape on the way the observatory was put together, and then designing a proper domestic space which Gabriel could use on and off, as he pleased. But that wasnâ€™t what Gabriel had in mind: he didnâ€™t expect me to add anything new at all. He wanted us to physically reconstruct the New Delhi observatory and use his ideas to make it habitable”.
The architect had to bear in mind that they would have only local workman to help, that the site was very difficult to reach, quite apart from the climatic, topographical and geographical conditions. All this made her think very carefully about logistics and entailed tough decisions about building materials: cast concrete, prefabricated blocks, whitewashed plasterwork and wood for the floors and door and window frames.
The architect was surprised that Orozco also did not want to disguise the fact that the pool uses up a specific curved space in the center of the tiny house, leaving its shape imprinted on the rooms beneath.
“It is not just a house. It is open to nature. You have a 360Â° view, there is no glass, it is open â€“ of course you can close it with some planks of wood in case of hurricane or rain,” says Orozco. “Going to the beach and be really exposed to nature is really important for this house”.
Indeed. You arrive and you walk to the roof which is like an observation deck for the universe. Your carbon footprint within this simple dwelling? About zero.