2022 AIA Housing Awards: Rain Harvest Home by Robert Hutchison Architecture and Javier Sanchez (JSa)

This tripartite home in the mountains just west of Mexico City splits a traditional home’s program across its densely vegetated site. All living functions are scattered across three porous, green-roofed buildings that appear to emerge from the landscape. All three collect rainwater, channeling it into a reservoir for on-site treatment and storage. The collected water accounts for 100% of the home’s year-round water requirements.

“This design offers a house as a laboratory for water conservation.” – Jury comment

Rain Harvest Home is located within the 450-acre Reserva el Peñón, a landscape-focused development that began in 2009 and provides water self-sufficiency for a community of 80 families. The region faces multiple environmental threats, ranging from illegal logging to groundwater contamination, and the home serves as a sustainable development model. The clients’ chief goal for the home was to push the boundaries of the reserve’s sustainability goals even further by creating a self-sufficient water system within the site.

A functional monument to a life-giving and sustaining resource, the home is fully water autonomous and offers a poetic dialogue with the experiential qualities of water. Its dispersed program supports deep engagement with the land, and the walking trails that connect its three buildings double as bioswales that guide the collected rainwater. 

“This design offers a house as a laboratory for water conservation,” said the jury. “Unpretentious of its place and thoughtfully arranged, the entirety of the composition works toward conservation and ecological engagement.”

“Unpretentious of its place and thoughtfully arranged, the entirety of the composition works toward conservation and ecological engagement.” – Jury comment

The center of the home is undoubtedly its circular, open-air bathhouse. At 250 square feet, it contains a hot bath, sauna, steam shower, and washroom that all encircle a cold plunge pool open to the sky. The structure, a microcosm of the project’s self-contained water system, also provides a place to ritualistically engage with the healing qualities of water.

In adopting permaculture practices and keyline design, the team increased the home’s resilience to dryness, erosion, and flooding while also improving soil fertility. As a result, every element of the home performs multiple functions and contributes to the landscape’s health. Overall, the Rain Harvest Home delicately balances human needs and nature, providing a compelling prototype for a better model of coexistence. 

Rain Harvest Home (La Casa que Cosecha Lluvia)

Architect: Robert Hutchison Architecture  Javier Sanchez (JSa)

Location: Temascaltepec, Mexico

Category: One- and Two-Family Custom Residences

Additional information

General Contractor & Mechanical Engineer: TAF Alejandro Filloy    

Structural Engineer: Bykonen Carter Quinn    

Landscape Architect: Helene Carlo    

Wood Construction & Fabrication: MicMac Estructuras    

Steel Construction & Fabrication: Rhometal    

Water Systems Consultant: Miguel Nieto    

Solar Systems Consultant: Teoatonalli

Photography: As Noted


Etty PadmodipoetroAIA, Chair, Urban Idea Lab, Boston  

Kenneth LukerAIA, Perkins Will, Durham, N.C.

Marica McKeel, AIA, Studio MM Architect, New York  

Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times, San Francisco

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