The Hill in front of the Glen

HW Studio Arquitectos

Architects: HW Studio Arquitectos
Location: El Vaquerito, Mexico
Area: 250.00 m2
Year: 2021
Photography: César Béjar and Dane Alonso

Near the historic city of Morelia, this project in a forested area takes the form of a vaulted concrete shelter to create a family home, integrated within the site’s lush surroundings. The main inspiration came from the subtle murmurs of the untouched environment and the user’s search for protection and shelter.

How can we feel protected? And in any case, what can we do when we’re feeling vulnerable? This question was accompanied by an image, or perhaps a memory: a frightened child huddled under a bedsheet while looking out to be sure to see what is going on all around.

This action alludes to the most basic part of a human being, translating it into the design to generate a continuity between the living surface and the land, forming a new hill in a place already surrounded by many of them. In this case, the architecture should be an accent on the words in the narrative, while the text is already given by the immediate context, the forms of life and other elements that reflects the passage of time.

The accents are four concrete walls that emerge surprisingly from the landscape. Two of them support the land of this new hill created by raising the ground, and two others frame the access and escort the guests into the house.


This path is designed be walked comfortably alone, but too narrow for two people side by side. Visitors are cast into a pilgrimage in solitude that leads to an old tree with such a significant presence that it was necessary to distort the linearity of one of the walls with a gentle curve to be able to pass by it…so close that it is even possible to graze it.


After crossing the tree threshold there is a heavy steel door. It opens onto opening a concrete vault, supporting the loads of the grass-covered ground/bedsheet that rests above it, giving a sensation of being inside a cold and dark, but strangely cozy cave.


Exposed concrete was chosen as the main material because of its materiality and rocky appearance, melting the house while inevitably interacting with the forest throughout the years. The flooring emphasizes the aroma of wood and gives balance to the cold temperature of the concrete, and finally, the steel is used because, with time and rainfall, it will acquire an appearance like tree bark.

As for the spatial organization, on the left side of the house are the public areas completely exposed to the wooded ravine, and on the right side the private areas open more timidly to an intimate patio, offering views of the sky and the tops of the lush vegetation.

It was important to have very few references of elements that denote a specific moment in time, so the refrigerator and appliances were hidden, the lighting was arranged very discreetly, and only four main materials were used: stone, wood, concrete and steel. The main goal for the client was to preserve the rough and primitive atmosphere of being in the mountains.