Casa Wabi by Tadao Ando, Mexico
‘Casa Wabi’ is a holistic vision of how art, architecture, community and landscape can best come together. This grand compound on a picturesque stretch of the Oaxacan coast in Mexico invites a contemplative introspection with its meditative embrace welcoming artists and the community alike.
The Casa Wabi’s bountiful spaces were designed by the esteem Japanese architect Tadao Ando for the Casa Wabi Foundation, an arts charity established by Brooklyn-based Mexican artist Bosco Sodi and directed by Patricia Martin, best known as the curator of Latin America’s largest private art collection, the Colección Júmex.
At its heart, the Casa is a compass. Its monumental concrete spine running over 300 metres in length provides the central organisation of its plan by delineating public on one side from private on the other.
With an effortlessly dexterous hand, Ando contrasts the stark lines of the concrete spine of the Casa with its vernacular roof construction. Known locally as Palapa, it is a structure of closely overlapping swathes of dried Royal Palm leaves, commonly seen in the region for their ability to provide not just shelter, but filtered ventilation.
Remarkably, there is not one pane of glass to be found within the sensitive structure, its materials palette so decidedly minimal. With its insitu-cast concrete walls, palapa roof, a combination of granite and marble floors and parota (a local hardwood), the Casa Wabi is so distinctly of its region, a nod to the traditions of Mexican architecture yet also supremely modern.
At the Casa Wabi, the rigours of the materiality experienced at human eye-level demand an introspection of its textural variations. The enormous expanses of concrete wall and the knotty knarls of the monolithic timber furniture become the perfect resting place for our eyes. All the while above soars the thatched roof or the open sky, lifting the creative spirit, connecting us to a sense of place in the world, and opening our minds to its monumental possibilities.