Urban Mexico Homes designed around Nature

( 2 Votes )

Amanali is a new residential development that has sprung up in the State of Hidalgo (80km north of Mexico City), around an existing dam of 1800 hectares. In the past, this dam, part of series of water bodies and reservoirs in the region, was used as a cistern for treated and pluvial water coming from the city.  However, today it’s used only for pluvial water collection, making it almost 100% useable for human use once a new treatment plant, which is now under construction, is finished.
In order to maximize the recreational exploitation of the site, with water sports and especially the existing lake, the investors bought the land to/from??? the government. This land was what is known in Mexico as “terrenos ejidales”, meaning they were given it for agricultural purposes and production, so the investors, originally from Mexico DF, had to negotiate with many owners. The fact that they associated with another local investor helped to facilitate the process

GDU, Grupo de Diseño Urbano, were tasked with the Master Plan, which set out the residential development in relation to the golf course and preservation areas and reserves. In response to some of the conditions set by the client, they created a layout where almost 80% of the lots have open vistas to the water and close contact with the golf course and golf house, which was designed by the internationally renowned architect Ricardo Legorreta.

The access to the site is designed as a slow-revealing experience, through which the visitor gets to appreciate the landscape and the open vistas to the water, step by step. The first segment of the accessing road is framed by a colored wall and a row of agaves stricta, recovered from the site and the surrounding areas; when blooming, these plants offer a tall and stunning inflorescence that give a strong vertical sense to the arrangement, in contrast with the horizontality of the region and of the access itself.
A fence surrounds each home but the vistas are completely open and unobstructed, letting the landscape and the distant water seem closer.
The simply designed homes are built with local basaltic stone and meet environmental certifications.
The whole site is shaped according to the existing grading, with a main spine or distributing road, which goes up and down reaching the different clusters of homes, opening up to the golf course and finally arriving at the lowest part of the site. In all its extension this spine is planted with jacaranda trees at both sides and with acacias on a central stripe.
In those segments of the road where the topography was irregular and half of the spine was lower than the opposite one, the designers decided to completely hide one of the sides with a linear-like garden, which frames the open vistas to the lake. This decision was made to avoid unnecessary artificially grading in the site; in those segments where the road was naturally flat, they proposed a symmetric planting plan that allows vistas to both sides. This becomes a key experience in the site, discovering the areas from different perspectives and always preserving the terrain´s natural dynamic and the best views toward the natural enclosing.
The site also houses some plazas, alluding to typical neighborhood-scale parks that mark entrances or borders. These plazas, shaped as elevated gardens retained by stonewalls, have pergolas that provide shaded areas and are planted with arid trees such as mesquite trees (Prosopis) and pepper tree (Schinus sp).
At the lowest part of the site, close to a future boat landing area, the road gets to a circular plaza with a rock arrangement that acts as a sculptural piece and reflects the local natural context.


The irrigation plan is based on the construction of three large cisterns that appear as small lakes in the site, which are next to the access area and are shaped out of the existing depressions of the site. For this reason, they were built at different levels as three different yet combined lakes. The water is brought from two wells and a treatment plant directly to the upper lake; from here it is conducted by gravity, through a large pipe that appears as a sculptural piece in the landscape, to the second lake and finally directed to the lowest one. A bomb located in this last lake resend the water to the top to keep the water aerated and constantly circulating. The irrigation plan serves all green spaces in the site and the nine holes of the golf course.

Two existing creeks in the site, which make part of a regional bird´s migratory route, were marked as natural reserves where no kind of construction is allowed. With this same concept of preservation, all houses in the complex must meet certain building constraints to maintain a responsible environment.

This project is an example of how a private development can meet local environmental needs and contribute to enhance the natural character of a given region.

Location: Tepeji del Río, State of Hidalgo, Mexico.
Size: 400 Has, with a 6 km-long waterfront.
Year of Completion: 2008
Client: Grupo Invertierra S.A. de C.V.
Master Plan, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture: Mario Schjetnan, Grupo de Diseño Urbano
Project coordinator: Manuel Peniche Osorio
Golf Course Design: Schmidt – Curley Design, Inc. /Arizona

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