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Rock Houses of Pedregal

How do you deal with a rock mountain? That’s what you have to think about when you build in Pedregal.

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Pedregal was the first private, master planned community in Los Cabos. The brainchild of Mexican architect Manuel Diaz Rivera, it is an exclusive area built onto a steep, granite mountain at Land’s End with amazing Pacific Ocean views. The name itself is revealing, meaning “stony place”, from the Spanish piedra, “stone”. You will not miss these stones. They are everywhere, and form the fabric of the mountain and its landscape.

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Building on solid granite can be challenging. The hardness removes the risk of soil movement, but carving into bedrock can expose large boulders that need to be removed, an expensive and slow process.

The traditional Mexican method uses heat and cold to break up boulders. A space under the rock is excavated, packed with wood then set on fire. When it is hot, it is doused with cold water. The change in temperature causes the rock to split and break apart. Then the process is repeated. It could take 6 months to demolish a garage sized rock this way. Nowadays, hydraulic chisels and expansion materials do the job.

Another approach would be to leave the boulder in place and integrate it into the design of the house. Villa Encantada, Villa Esperanza and Villa Morelia are great examples of this.

Villa Encantada has one of the largest boulders, a massive egg situated in a towering glass atrium overlooking the Pacific.

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When the builders discovered this huge rock, they decided to build the house around it and make it into an architectural feature. Today, it is the dramatic focal point of the main living space.

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Rocks also feature elsewhere in the house, in the office and art studio.

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In Villa Esperanza, only a huge rock display in the living room and boveda ceiling over the dining area remain of the original house. It was redesigned and expanded in 2008 by Ted Downward of Cabo Construction to better showcase these features.

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Here, the rock also serves a structural function, as it is built into an arch supporting the roof. It is set in a small tropical garden and illuminated by a domed skylight.

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In Villa Morelia, a lovely example of hacienda style by Pablo Diaz Rivera in 2003, we find big rocks, surprisingly, in two of the bathrooms. In the first, a large boulder is built into one of the shower walls.

In the second, an outdoor bathroom next to an outdoor kitchen, enormous boulders form an entire wall.

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The current owner, a great connoisseur of traditional Mexican art and design, comissioned a series of murals for the property. In this bathroom, murals of mountain goats leap off the rocks, lending a charming and whimsical touch to a small space.

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One thinks of the wise man who built his house on a rock. Or of lemonade from lemons. In either case, the rock houses of Pedregal show how creative solutions to the challenges of building on a solid rock mountain have given us dynamic, unique and distinctive homes.

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