Affordable Housing
Valle Dorado San Juan Del Rio
Querétaro México

The existing, single story detached houses in Valle Dorado have failed. A lack of community amongst the residents has deprived them of the support structures that contribute to the quality of a neighborhood enclave. This project seeks to move from the architectural problem of a single house to that of housing, exploring ideas of density, aggregation, difference and repetition.

Two primary concerns drive the design of the tower prototype: the larger community of spaces that develop when the buildings are aggregated across the length of the city block and the spatial quality of the individual unit within the building. The overall mass of the tower building is broken up in plan and section, creating voids for light, air and outdoor space. When multiplied over the length of the block, the voids create pedestrian walks that cross through the block from one street to another. These walkways lead to outdoor stairs that access the units above and to interior courtyard spaces surrounded by local stores and community services. These outdoor alleys offer the residents a place to share childcare, start small businesses and gather.

The living units are located above and accessed by a shared set of outdoor stairs. Although the units are compact and modest, each unit has two bedrooms, living space, kitchen and bath. In addition each unit has an outdoor terrace for access to light and air. In order to alleviate the monotony of the repetitive floors and constant, flat ceilings often found in this housing type, the units interlock in section to produce variable spatial volumes animated by natural lighting.

Located at the end of the block, the west elevation of the building is scaled to address the more urban condition of the street, while the east elevation is scaled to the more intimate pedestrian life of the interior with outdoor stairs and terraces. The building is constructed of board-formed, cast in place concrete for durability and ease of maintenance. Interior finishes are wood, tile and exposed concrete. As a thermal mass, the building passively heats and cools the interior spaces, utilizing the outdoor terraces as a mediator between inside and outside. The 47 square meters flat rooftop can easily accommodate an array of solar panels.

Project Credits:
Russell Thomsen in collaboration with Ramiro Diaz-Granados; Daniel Hapton, AJ Rosales, Manuel Gutierrez de Rudea Garcia

About Russell Thomsen

A founding partner in the award winning Central Office of Architecture (COA, 1987-2008) and IDEA Office (2009-2014), Russell Thomsen formed RNThomsen Architecture in 2015. He has been a licensed architect since 1989. The office provides a full range of architectural services. In addition to directing the practice, Russell is also a senior design studio faculty member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in downtown Los Angeles. The work of the office has been internationally recognized, exhibited and published. The office has received several awards including the Architectural League Prize and Emerging Voices, both from the Architectural League of New York, and the Best In American Architecture Award for the Saitama Residence.