The “Casa de los Milagros“, located in the cloud 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 completed in 2002, with some changes being made between then and 2006.
Although Veras Godoy’s work is little known, it is interesting to study his whimsical and playful organic style of housing that he left in his wake, specifically in regions of Mexico such as Xalapa, Veracruz. His work reveals an eye for 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 in full and in detail, accompanied by a text that guides through the construction of these spaces to better understand the background of Veras Godoy’s work.
The varying heights of the convex slopes that form the roof are reminiscent of a large sea creature in motion. Viewed from ground level, the smooth, earth-coloured concrete seems to support the upper half like a particularly large stem of a mushroom. Finally, the curved base of the house gives it the appearance of a floating organic creation. In fact, the house itself is a kind of Rorschach test: like clouds or abstract art, the interpretation of its unique form is in the eye of the beholder. According to owner Rosalinda Ulloa, different people refer to it as a mushroom, an octopus, a bat cave, a flower and even a cake-covering meringue.
The house was built in stages and without a traditional blueprint, 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 light-filled kitchen and raised nest-like bedrooms 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 a friend of Ulloa’s. When they were given to her, she and Danilo and the two women were able to find them. 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, rising from the base of the house to the top. The same happened with the stained glass window in the living room, which was also a gift.
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 looks like a bluebird’s beak. The salamander-shaped figure on 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 entire structure, a snake made by Ulloa envelops a staphylococcus as a triumphant crown for the palace, a symbol of both feminine sensuality and the overcoming of the owner’s own fear of the reptile.
Upon 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 first floor, imagined on the second. 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 has the same playful and otherworldly characteristics as the exterior. 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. Stone structures for storage are combined with glass mosaic counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, the effect is one of local utility and optimistic dreaminess.
The “House of Miracles” is also a place that requires physical agility to move around: 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 bookshelves. An external staircase leads to the master bedroom to allow entry directly into the sanctuary when needed, and a slide was originally built into one of the bedrooms, while an external slide was later added to the house for added fun.