Photo Credit: Philip Spears

House on a Cliff

Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects
675 Ponce de Leon Avenue, NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
(404) 872-8400
Meg Snider
Business Phone: (404) 872-8400

Project Location: Monterrey, Mexico

Project Description

Several years after building a large house alongside a formidable mountain range in northeast Mexico, its owners decided they wanted a small house nearby to accommodate visitors. The original house, however, had consumed all the available convenient building area on the site. In order to create a location for the new small house, its structure was placed on top of a jagged cliff looming above.
In contrast to its complicated perch on the edge of a jagged rock, the new small house contains just a few simple spaces. One bedroom & bathroom serve a common living/dining/kitchen space that is as tall as it is wide. An elevated exterior deck extends from the common living space, as does a smaller porch cantilevered from the bedroom. These interior & exterior spaces are oriented to the dramatic views. As a foil for these views, the house is rendered minimally. Its white vertical surfaces contrast with the varied textures of the landscape. Similar but conversely, the texture of wood ceiling planks contrasts with the open sky beyond the high windows.
From ground level a series of stairs circuitously wind their way up the cliff face, some with wood treads supported by steel, others comprised of stone treads built into the stone face of the hill. Additionally, a steel/glass & wood bridge spans the gap and connects back to an upper level of the main house.
The structural system consists of concrete walls resting directly on the stone face of the hillside. Additional steel framing is attached to the concrete for lightweight structure where needed. Exterior and interior wall surfaces are smooth stucco/plaster. Some portions of the foundations, where they intersect with the rocky terrain, are clad in rough stone leaving the white walls to float above the rough ground plane. Ceilings are mostly wood planks, Floors are cut stone slabs set on the concrete structure. Decks, stairs, and the bridge are wood planks with glass railings.