Issue 10
ISSUE
STORY TYPE
AUTHOR
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 28, 2024
In Search of Domestic Kintsugi
by Edwin Heathcote
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 13, 2024
The Perils of the Landscapes We Make
by Karrie Jacobs
10
PERSPECTIVE
May 6, 2024
Using Simple Tools as a Radical Act of Independence
by Jarrett Fuller
9
PERSPECTIVE
April 29, 2024
Why Can’t I Just Go Home?
by Eva Hagberg
9
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 22, 2024
Why Did Our Homes Stop Evolving?
by George Kafka
9
ROUNDTABLE
April 8, 2024
Spaces Where the Body Is a Vital Force
by Tiffany Jow
9
BOOK REVIEW
April 1, 2024
Tracing the Agency of Women as Users and Experts of Architecture
by Mimi Zeiger
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 25, 2024
Are You Sitting in a Non-Place?
by Mzwakhe Ndlovu
9
ROUNDTABLE
March 11, 2024
At Home, Connecting in Place
by Marianela D’Aprile
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 4, 2024
VALIE EXPORT’s Tactical Urbanism
by Alissa Walker
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 26, 2024
What the “Whole Earth Catalog” Taught Me About Building Utopias
by Anjulie Rao
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 19, 2024
How a Run-Down District in London Became a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization
by Ellen Peirson
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 12, 2024
In Brooklyn, Housing That Defies the Status Quo
by Gideon Fink Shapiro
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 5, 2024
That “Net-Zero” Home Is Probably Living a Lie
by Fred A. Bernstein
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 22, 2024
The Virtue of Corporate Architecture Firms
by Kate Wagner
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 16, 2024
How Infrastructure Shapes Us
by Deb Chachra
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 8, 2024
The Defiance of Desire Lines
by Jim Stephenson
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 18, 2023
This House Is Related to You and to Your Nonhuman Relatives
by Sebastián López Cardozo
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 11, 2023
What’s the Point of the Plus Pool?
by Ian Volner
7
BOOK REVIEW
December 4, 2023
The Extraordinary Link Between Aerobics and Architecture
by Jarrett Fuller
7
PERSPECTIVE
November 27, 2023
Architecture That Promotes Healing and Fortifies Us for Action
by Kathryn O’Rourke
7
objects and things
November 6, 2023
How to Design for Experience
by Diana Budds
7
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 30, 2023
The Meaty Objects at Marta
by Jonathan Griffin
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
October 23, 2023
How Oliver Grabes Led Braun Back to Its Roots
by Marianela D’Aprile
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
October 16, 2023
Can Adaptive Reuse Fuel Equitable Revitalization?
by Clayton Page Aldern
6
PERSPECTIVE
October 9, 2023
What’s the Point of a Tiny Home?
by Mimi Zeiger
6
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 2, 2023
A Book Where Torn-Paper Blobs Convey Big Ideas
by Julie Lasky
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
September 24, 2023
The Architecture of Doing Nothing
by Edwin Heathcote
6
BOOK REVIEW
September 18, 2023
What the “Liebes Look” Says About Dorothy Liebes
by Debika Ray
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 11, 2023
Roy McMakin’s Overpowering Simplicity
by Eva Hagberg
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 5, 2023
Minimalism’s Specific Objecthood, Interpreted by Designers of Today
by Glenn Adamson
5
ROUNDTABLE
August 28, 2023
How Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake Navigate Transition
by Siobhan Burke
5
OBJECTS AND THINGS
August 21, 2023
The Future-Proofing Work of Design-Brand Archivists
by Adrian Madlener
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
August 14, 2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?
by Alex Bozikovic
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
August 7, 2023
In Search of Healing, Helen Cammock Confronts the Past
by Jesse Dorris
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
July 31, 2023
What Dead Malls, Office Parks, and Big-Box Stores Can Do for Housing
by Ian Volner
5
PERSPECTIVE
July 24, 2023
A Righteous Way to Solve “Wicked” Problems
by Susan Yelavich
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
July 17, 2023
Making a Mess, with a Higher Purpose
by Andrew Russeth
5
ROUNDTABLE
July 10, 2023
How to Emerge from a Starchitect’s Shadow
by Cynthia Rosenfeld
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 26, 2023
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All in Architecture
by Marianela D’Aprile
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 19, 2023
How Time Shapes Amin Taha’s Unconventionally Handsome Buildings
by George Kafka
4
SHOW AND TELL
June 12, 2023
Seeing and Being Seen in JEB’s Radical Archive of Lesbian Photography
by Svetlana Kitto
4
PERSPECTIVE
June 5, 2023
In Built Environments, Planting Where It Matters Most
by Karrie Jacobs
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 30, 2023
On the Home Front, a Latine Aesthetic’s Ordinary Exuberance
by Anjulie Rao
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 21, 2023
For a Selfie (and Enlightenment), Make a Pilgrimage to Bridge No. 3
by Alexandra Lange
3
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 8, 2023
The Building Materials of the Future Might Be Growing in Your Backyard
by Marianna Janowicz
3
BOOK REVIEW
May 1, 2023
Moving Beyond the “Fetishisation of the Forest”
by Edwin Heathcote
2
ROUNDTABLE
April 24, 2023
Is Craft Still Synonymous with the Hand?
by Tiffany Jow
2
OBJECTS AND THINGS
April 17, 2023
A Historian Debunks Myths About Lacemaking, On LaceTok and IRL
by Julie Lasky
2
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 10, 2023
How AI Helps Architects Design, and Refine, Their Buildings
by Ian Volner
2
SHOW AND TELL
April 3, 2023
Merging Computer and Loom, a Septuagenarian Artist Weaves Her View of the World
by Francesca Perry
1
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
March 27, 2023
Words That Impede Architecture, According to Reinier de Graaf
by Osman Can Yerebakan
1
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
March 20, 2023
Painting With Plaster, Monica Curiel Finds a Release
by Andrew Russeth
1
PERSPECTIVE
March 13, 2023
Rules and Roles in Life, Love, and Architecture
by Eva Hagberg
1
Roundtable
March 6, 2023
A Design Movement That Pushes Beyond Architecture’s Limitations
by Tiffany Jow
0
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 7, 2023
To Improve the Future of Public Housing, This Architecture Firm Looks to the Past
by Ian Volner
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Radical Potential of “Prime Objects”
by Glenn Adamson
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 20, 2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos
by Xin Wang
0
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
February 13, 2023
How Michael J. Love’s Subversive Tap Dancing Steps Forward
by Jesse Dorris
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 7, 2023
Finding Healing and Transformation Through Good Black Art
by Folasade Ologundudu
0
BOOK REVIEW
February 13, 2023
How Stephen Burks “Future-Proofs” Craft
by Francesca Perry
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 27, 2023
Making Use of End Users’ Indispensable Wisdom
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches
by Jonathan Schultz
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Day Architecture Stopped
by Kate Wagner
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The Overlooked Potential of Everyday Objects
by Adrian Madlener
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 7, 2023
A Conversation About Generalists, Velocity, and the Source of Innovation
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure
by Natalia Rachlin
Untapped is published by the design company Henrybuilt.
ROUNDTABLE
03.11.2024
At Home, Connecting in Place

In an enclave of Puerto Escondido, residences attuned to their surroundings help inhabitants look inward.

Exterior wide shot of Casa Monte with In Common With founders perched on an upper ledge
Felicia Hung and Nick Ozemba at Casa Monte, designed by Carlos H. Matos. (Photo: Heather Sten)


When I talk to designers Nick Ozemba and Carlos H. Matos, it’s a snowy day in Brooklyn. It’s been below freezing for a few days in a row, and the forecast gives me no hope that the cold will let up. It’s tempting to think of Puerto Escondido—a coastal town in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, where Dune, a new line of indoor-outdoor fixtures by In Common With (the lighting-design firm Ozemba co-founded with Felicia Hung, in 2018), was recently photographed at Casa Monte, a house Matos designed—as the perfect getaway from our chilly environs.

Were I to give into that kind of thinking, I would be far from alone. In recent years, the formerly sleepy town has become a popular tourist destination, prompting prolific development. Activist groups have been organizing to ensure that building in the area is done responsibly, slowing down current construction and urging greater regard for the coastal ecosystems to which Puerto Escondido is home.

But not all construction in Puerto Escondido threatens its surroundings. The place where Matos and Ozemba have rooted their aforementioned designs is somewhat removed from this contested setting, tucked into an area whose development was spurred by Mexican artist Bosco Sodi’s commissioning of Casa Wabi, a nonprofit cultural center designed by Tadao Ando, with additional buildings by Álvaro Siza and Kengo Kuma.

The houses in this part of Puerto Escondido are inhabited only in short spurts, by visitors to the area, and each is architecturally experimental. (Although Ozemba tells me that they do have a couple of things in common: They’re all made of concrete and are all off the grid.) Beyond their materiality, the homes intentionally bring their inhabitants closer to the environment—and to themselves. The architecture has the particular effect of exposing people to, rather than protecting them from, the elements, conjuring up a range of thoughts and emotions.

When we speak, Matos bemoans the state of tourism-driven development across Mexico, noting the way it all seems to cater to the type of tourist who just wants to have an easy, frictionless vacation, to experience a life that is practically impossible. In our conversation, he and Ozemba—each in his own way—embrace something else entirely to be found in Puerto, as the locals call it: a deep connection with the natural world, facilitated by design; the theater of the everyday; and the possibility that architecture might engender an edifying challenge.

A sunset seen through an open door of a home
A fixture from In Common With's Dune line, at Casa Monte. (Photo: Heather Sten)


Tell me about the part of Puerto Escondido you’re interested in.

NICK OZEMBA: It’s about forty minutes away from the center city, on a road that has all these small houses on it. This is the Puerto Escondido that I know and love. The whole region in general has a laid-back attitude, which comes through in the architecture.

CARLOS H. MATOS: I did a residency at Casa Wabi—that’s what brought me to the area.

It took me about five, six years from starting to visit there to finishing Casa Monte. Over that time, I saw how the area developed and sprawled, which is something that is unfortunately a repetitive process that happens in Mexico. Every visit I made, I’d see things popping up; it had a gold-rush feel to it. But Oaxaca is a bit more resilient than other parts of Mexico. People there are more protective of their land.

NO: But part of what makes this area so special is that it feels like nothing is super precious. There are no doors on the buildings, which is a huge contrast to almost any other place that people go to be “away.” If I think about luxury travel, people are, like, “I want to lock the door.” “I want an air conditioner.” Casa Monte, and the homes around it, are none of those things. It’s as if they are saying, “If you’re here, then you need to experience what it’s really like to be here.”

Inside an open air home in Mexico
Casa Monte. (Photo: Rory Gardiner)


What is that experience like, exactly?

NO: At Casa Monte, you’re in the desert. It’s really bright, then you walk into a stairwell that’s immediately dark. There’s no lighting at all. Then you end up in a bedroom on the second floor that’s surrounded on all four sides by these beautiful shutters that filter in light, with the bed in the center of the room.

There’s something cinematic about it. You’re being drawn through compression to expansion, through light and dark, and the materiality shifts from floor to floor. And when you’re there, you don’t see anyone.

When I drew the lamps in the Dune line for the first time, I was staying in Casa Tiny, designed by Aranza de Ariño, down the road from Casa Monte. I was thinking about how the things we make don’t need to take themselves too seriously. This line is our most affordable collection, too. Those ideas came from the architecture.

You’re saying that design can have a real impact on our lives without being over the top.

NO: Right. I tend to design from an interior perspective. I think about the theater of how an object is used: What is the atmosphere this thing is creating?

A lot of what In Common With makes isn’t about making a statement; it’s about fading into the background. With the lamps I mentioned, I wanted to make an object that could move between all these different spaces somewhat anonymously, adding something to the conversation without taking center stage. In that way, interiors are more my muse than a person.

Inside an open air home in Mexico.
Inside Casa Monte. (Photo: Rory Gardiner)


It seems like Casa Monte was designed with a similar flexibility and subtlety in mind.

CM: Casa Monte is an intervention—it’s pretty much an open space. It’s a platform that raises you from the ground and separates you from the brush below, which is very dense and kind of spiky and full of insects. This house, by the way, has become a sanctuary for bats—which is funny because some people complain, but there’s a lot of people who actually like the bats. When I was building it, I woke up a few times to chachalacas [chattering birds] in the trees. In a way, the house attracts nature back into its rooms.

But it’s not necessarily a specific person’s house. It’s a house for people to experience for two, three days. If you were to live there, you would probably complain because it’s not fully enveloped in comfort. It’s a place where you can retreat intermittently and experience more of a primal form of living.

What do you mean by that?

CM: When you see, for example, medieval architecture, it’s a sculpture as well as a building.  The stairs are too steep. It’s dangerous. There are no balustrades. By “primal,” I mean going back to that, creating a house that activates you.

You have to be able to survive here. It’s not a sit-down-on-the-camastro-and-ask-for-your-margarita kind of holiday. It’s a place that puts you to work. It invites people to engage with the architecture, to be aware of their surroundings. That generates resilience.

An outdoor patio of an open air home in Mexico.
Casa Monte. (Photo:Rory Gardiner)


So this area—the weather, the landscape, the nature—and the fact that people are only staying for a few days allow the architecture to be a bit more elemental.

NO: That’s the thing. At Casa Tiny, there’s only one light fixture: a light bulb hanging from a string. It’s in the center of the structure, over the kitchen counter. At night, when the sun is gone, you end up feeling really connected to whatever is happening outside—instead of an interior that’s super lit-up.

At Casa Monte, like I mentioned, Carlos did a lot of really interesting things with lighting design, creating small spaces and skylights for the sun to come through and move around throughout the day. Of course, everyone experiences this differently, but for me, that play with light creates an ambiance that complements the space and the people occupying it.

Right—those atmospheric qualities that you were talking about.

NO: Yes: an atmosphere where [the architecture, or design], is supporting instead of leading. Every time I go to Puerto Escondido, I get immersed in a setting that encourages that way of thinking.

It changes what you might anticipate from a residence. Places that challenge our expectations of a home—what’s the value of that?

NO: The architecture in this part of Puerto Escondido really embodies its setting. The value of that is that it encourages you to connect with the environment around the home, and the architecture contributes to that connection. When I’m in this place, I feel like I can reconnect with myself.


This conversation was compiled from two interviews and has been condensed and edited for clarity.