Historic Hacienda Style Gets a 21st-Century Update Outside Mexico City
A sprawling blend of indigenous and Spanish colonial influences, the traditional Mexican hacienda is a rural estate with thick adobe walls, red clay tile roofing, and spacious courtyards with fountains at the center. Originally owned only by the wealthy, they occupied large acreages appropriated from the local Indian population and served as social centers for their “hacendado” residents, hosting events like holidays, weddings, and reunions. Today, historic haciendas are often still owned by descendants of the original occupants, and many more have become hotels and retreats.
Restoring a historic hacienda to its former glory can be an intimidating project, but if you start from scratch instead, it’s possible to capture the luxurious tranquility that haciendas radiate while updating them for a new era. Architecture firm Chain + Siman collaborated with Modo Manera to do just that with Casa Rancha Avándaro, a weekend retreat in the Valle de Bravo area west of Mexico City. Their version draws inspiration from the openness of the traditional hacienda while enhancing its connection to nature and adding numerous all-glass walls to let the daylight stream inside.
The architects’ goal was to produce a relaxing retreat that functioned as an independent home for the clients while also providing plenty of connected spaces for guests. They wanted to incorporate key aspects of Mexican haciendas like solid volumes, interior patios, and gardens into the project while replacing the standard courtyard fountain with a jacuzzi. The home is divided into three volumes plus an annex, all with walls made of yellow stone from a nearby mine. The central volume is the tallest, flanked on either side by smaller gabled volumes.
Inside the central volume is a living room and dining room, which look out onto the terrace and the jacuzzi through the front glazing and a central patio through the back. One of the smaller connected volumes contains the main bedroom, with its own lofted study, while the other contains the kitchen and additional services. The annex, connected to the main house by a glass bridge crossing the central courtyard, hosts guests. This space is able to maintain its own sense of privacy and autonomy without feeling too separate from the main home, and it still enjoys the same beautiful views of the impeccably landscaped grounds, and the boughs of mature trees swaying in the breeze.
The result feels distinctly Mexican, preserving the best elements of the traditional vernacular architecture and all the charm they convey. The exposed beams and earthy materials connect the home to its natural setting, while updates like floor-to-ceiling windows, black steel, open plan interiors, and built-in furniture made of black plywood bring in contemporary comforts and preferences.
“The interior design is supported by the lighting, the finishes, and the vegetation of the place. Inside, the stone preserves its natural essence and is complemented by elements of black ironwork, wood in different shades in the lofts, furniture, and dividing walls, and concrete in the floors, kitchen, and bathrooms,” the architects say. “The house is a cozy, comfortable, and warm space that creates a dialogue between classic elements of the haciendas and contemporary solutions. There is a balance between luxury, aesthetics, and functionality.”