Careyes Bay, Costa Careyes, Mexico
In the state of Jalisco along the Mexican coast between Puerta Vallarta and Manzanillo, a contemporary regional beach-house style developed in the 1960s and ’70s. Gianfranco Brignone is the wizard responsible for this magic. In the late ’60s, this Italian who had spent decades in France fell in love with the hidden coves and bays along Mexico’s Pacific coast. He purchased six thousand acres, taming the land on horseback with machete in hand. Having set aside part of the site as a nature preserve to protect the local turtle population, Brignone developed Costa Careyes with a resort hotel, polo club and spectacular houses along the cliffs. These modernist beach-houses feature local colors and palapa, as well as clustered pavilions. Built in the manner of the ancient coastal peoples, the individual thatched-roof pavilions have no walls. They reflect an understanding of the setting and of the area’s exceptional microclimate; rain usually falls only twenty days each year. The houses’ residential architecture merge with the dense vegetation, rocky setting and sandy beaches characteristic of the coast.
Brignone’s latest compound of houses, designed in collaboration with French architect Jean-Claude Galibert and local craftsmen, includes twin guest-houses which face one another across the water of a rocky cove, each crowning an outcropping in the Pacific. These houses are sun-shaped, and the rooms open on to the ‘lagoon’ pool which circulates around both buildings, creating man-made island houses.
One of the guest-houses, Casa del Sol Occidente, has walls which create corridors, link courtyards and form the perimeter around which moat-like swimming pools seem to float. There are few right angles and hard edges. Everything about the house is of Mexican craftsmanship, including the palapa, the woodworking and the ‘stone carpets’ made of local river stones. ‘I introduced mixing “magnetite” into the cement. It is found in the sand in some of our beaches, and studies have shown health benefits for prolonging life.’ The entrance evokes the concept of the Occident with its fortress-like stone walls.
Casa del Sol Occidente and its neighbor represent Brignone’s hope that East and West will one day unite in peace. The houses are connected by the water, and he placed a meteor in the center of the cove. These houses, like all of my constructions, include the four elements: wind, earth, fire as the sun, and water expressed in the pools and views of the ocean, Brignone says. One can place the bed in the center of the bedroom, giving a perfect view of the ocean,’ he adds. I consider my profession as a “picture framer”. My houses are the frame and nature is the painting.