There’s that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where the monolith appears in the dessert and the apes go, well, ape. This monolith appeared in the hills above San Miguel de Allende and I went nuts; not just because it’s one of the places in the world where I would want to live, but because of the house itself.
, AKA Ethereal House, is both architecture and art installation; a secluded mirrored house on a mountainside in Mexico offers travelers the freedom to reconnect with nature. The house sits in a grove of mesquite trees, clad in bird-friendly mirrored panels and seems to disappear into the rugged terrain of the extinct volcano Palo Huérfano.
It was conceived as an off-grid hideaway for two—by Mexico-based Singaporean writer and designer Prashant Ashoka. dwelling that draws all its power from solar energy, gets all its water supply from collected rainwater, and uses a patterned ultraviolet coating on the mirrored exterior making it visible to birds while remaining reflective to the human eye.
Ashoka wanted to leave the landscape untouched, so the foundation of the was built entirely from rock collected off the mountain. And by utilizing site orientation, efficient ventilation design, and insulated glass, the house naturally regulates temperature in the semi-arid desert climate of the central Mexican highlands.
Inside, the open-planned concept consists of two rectilinear volumes that merge at a 120-degree V-shaped intersection, mimicking the angle of the ravine visible through the exposed glass shower. From the central living space and bedroom, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors frame vistas of towering cliffs, while opening to connect with a decked patio and pool area shaded by olive and pomegranate trees. Inside, exposed ceiling beams and concrete walls celebrate the construction process, while a material palate of jute, leather, wood and stone continue the natural aesthetic for the furnishings—including a statement copper bathtub beside the bed. Behind the intimate kitchen, a rooftop stairway access doubles as a utility room, and remote-controlled outdoor PVC shutters were added to provide security and privacy.
But while the inside is lovely and luxe and peaceful, it’s the outside that stuns. The mirrored façade diffuses the liminal space between the wild and the structured while allowing the volume to take on a transitional quality as it reflects the unfolding seasons. As it catches first light, the house gleams as a blue-tinged box, standing in glassy contrast against the felted nocturnal blackness of the mountainside. And in the ombre hues of sunset the volume scintillates against the landscape like a mirage, before disappearing entirely.
And yet it’s the night sky, flooded with stars that reflects the true beauty, the ethereal nature, of Casa. And, best of all, no one lives in the house, because it’s used as a retreat, a getaway, a place to just be …