The "Casa de los Milagros" (House of Miracles), located in the cloudy forest on the outskirts of Xalapa, Veracruz and designed by Mexican architect Danilo Veras Godoy, is a space conceived with organic forms, earth, unexpectedly shaped openings and mosaic glass in different shades. It was designed to meet the needs of Rosalinda Ulloa, a single mother who would live there with her two young children. It was built in stages, starting in 1995, and was completed in 2002, with some changes being made between then and 2006.
Although Veras Godoy's work is not very well known, it is interesting to study the whimsical and playful organic style of housing that he left in his wake, specifically in Mexican regions such as Xalapa, Veracruz. His work gives insight into how both builders and inhabitants interact with architectural creation, resulting in constructions that continue to amaze and inspire. With this in mind, photographer Naser Nader Ibrahim presents a series of images that explore comprehensively and in detail, accompanied by a text that guides us through the construction of these spaces to better understand the background of Veras Godoy's work.
Text by Sarah DeVries.
The varying heights of the convex slopes that form the roof are reminiscent of a great sea creature in motion. Viewed from ground level, the smooth, earth-coloured concrete seems to support the upper half like a particularly large mushroom stem. Finally, the curved base of the house gives it the appearance of a floating organic creation. In fact, the house itself is a type of Rorschach test: like clouds or abstract art, the interpretation of its unique form is in the eye of the beholder. According to the owner, Rosalinda Ulloa, different people refer to it as a mushroom, an octopus, a bat cave, a flower, and even a meringue used to cover cakes.
The house was built in stages and without a traditional floorplan, the house is the product of long conversations with the family who would first occupy the space. "What are your wildest dreams?" was the starting point, and the various answers would include fire station slides and poles, a salamander-like creature crawling towards the chimney on the roof, a kitchen filled with light, and bedrooms raised in a nest-like manner with windows for stargazing at night and sun salutations in the morning: caves with a view. The house is also a collage, parts of it made from found and donated materials. The two rows of circular windows above the stairs, for example, were a gift from Ulloa's friend. Upon receiving them, she and Danilo Veras Godoy spent hours playing and deciding not where to put them, but what to build to display them. In the end, they were used to light the stairwell, going from the bottom of the house to the top. The same happened with the stained window in the living room, which was also a gift.
The animals, both intentional and suggested, also adorn the house: the sink in the upstairs bathroom is in the shape of a lion's head, while some would say the tap on the ground floor resembles the beak of a bluebird. The salamander-shaped figure above the chimney appeared as a result of the young family's imagination and the architect tying a crayon to a long stick to trace the figure. Above the whole structure, a snake made by Ulloa engulfs a column as a triumphant crown for the palace, a symbol of both feminine sensuality and the owner overcoming her own fear of the reptile.
When entering the house, one could imagine oneself inside the shell of a snail. The design is circular, both floors consisting of several curved rooms around a central column: real on the ground floor, imagined on the first floor. On the ground floor are, circling from left to right, the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the stairwell and the ground floor bathroom. On the first floor, walking in the same direction, is the bathroom and dressing room followed by three bedrooms. A combination of circular, slanted and quadrilateral windows throughout the house ensures that light enters everywhere it is needed: in the stairwell, in the common spaces and in the individual rooms.
The interior of the house possesses the same playful and otherworldly characteristics as the interior. With bright, turquoise floors throughout much of the house, the soft neutral white, brown and terracotta tones of the walls serve as a canvas to let the overall design shine through. The stone structures for storage combine with the glass mosaic counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, the effect is one of local utility and optimistic dreaminess.
The "Casa de los Milagros" is also a place that requires physical agility to move around it: alternating staircases lead to raised bed platforms in each of the bedrooms, while the rest of the space is reserved for work or play, with built-in shelves. An outdoor staircase leads to the master bedroom to allow direct entry into the sanctuary when needed, and a slide was originally built into one of the bedrooms, while later an outdoor slide was added to the house for added fun.