Belly of the Beast: Serpentine Residential Eco-Building

When faced with a difficult parcel of land on which to build, owners and architects are often moved to develop innovative solutions. But few are as strange, as eye-catching and as wonderfully in tune with the land as this one, known as Quetzalcoatl’s Nest. This may look like one of those dazzling-but-impossible architectural renders which will never be constructed – but this is an actual housing estate in Naucalpan, Mexico.

The owners of this plot of land had an exceptionally difficult series of problems to work around: the land was .5 hectares (about 1.2 acres), covered in slopes and pitted with collapsed caves left over from previous mining on the property. The very small flat, treeless portion of the land had to be used for parking. But maybe most challenging of all was that the existing plant life had to be left untouched. In the end, about 97% of the land was unsuitable for building on.

That is where architect Javier Senosiain stepped in. Presented with these restrictions, most architects would have simply thrown up their hands and walked away from the project, but Senosiain is known around the world as a master of organic architecture. He works with the shape of the land to create distinctly natural forms in buildings which would normally look like out-of-place boxes plopped in a natural setting.

As he took into account all of the requirements for the project, Senosiain began to think of the way a snake’s body curves and undulates. It was in this way that the impressive Quetzalcoatl’s Nest took shape. Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god considered to be the mediator between heaven and earth, embodied the compromises and partnerships taking place in this unique building project.

The main building is Quetzalcoatl’s body; it contains all of the condominiums of the development. Domed windows look out over the lush grounds. The homes are accessed via the walkway that runs along the serpent’s back. At one end of the Great Serpent’s body is its rattle, a three-story structure that houses the water deposit, guard’s post and machine room. The interior of each condo reflects the soft, curving, organic shapes of the exterior.

The head of Quetzalcoatl emerges near the parking area through the one preserved cave on the property, providing a platform on which one can stand and take in the breathtaking view of the surrounding canyon. One of the collapsed caves has formed a crater on the land, which the architect turned into a small pool which collects rainwater and is part of the self-contained sewage treatment system for the property. Stone walls also in the shapes of serpents wind through the land.

(all images via: Urbarama)

This astonishing property is unlike anything else in the world and it is truly a work of art. Coming home to an apartment that is in the belly of a mythical snake must be like stepping into a different world at the end of the day. The fact that the architect used natural, eco-friendly building techniques and relied on the natural contours of the land makes an already-beautiful project all the more impressive.