A Glass House in the Mexican Desert


At dusk, the house appears as a phosphorescent box, its mirrored panels reflecting the light of the sky and the ocher hues of the mountainside that, as if a mirage, will soon vanish as night falls. Casa Etérea — perched above San Miguel de Allende on the rugged slopes of the extinct Palo Huérfano volcano, part of the greater Los Picachos mountain range of Central Mexico — is both an architectural showpiece and a site-specific art installation, one built to inspire a sense of awe. A feat of sustainable engineering that uses solar energy and collected rainwater, the 800-square-foot dwelling has a glass exterior (with a striped UV-reflective coating) that is bird friendly — even as it creates the effect of a seemingly infinite landscape.

Prashant Ashoka, the owner and designer of Casa Etérea, first came up with the idea for a glass house during his initial trip to the country, in the summer of 2017. He had been working in Singapore as a writer and photographer, but was compelled to move to San Miguel de Allende for its beauty and its reputation as a destination for artists — in the ’60s, for example, visitors included prominent Beat-generation figures such as Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. The facade, he says, is at once transitional and symbolic: “It’s a metamorphosis, not unlike my transformational journey to Mexico.” Determined to build himself a secluded writer’s retreat, Ashoka eventually purchased two acres of wilderness — situated just 20 minutes from San Miguel de Allende’s downtown — with no water lines or electricity. “I knew that it was my time to create something of my own,” he says. “And I’d always fantasized about escaping into nature, living on a mountain or a beach. But I decided to take a romantic notion many people flirt with and make it my reality.”

Though Casa Etérea has many impressive features, Ashoka says that “the house was born from the bathroom,” which features the structure’s only interior wall, a brick and concrete partition livened with flecks of rose gold. Behind it sits a large handmade copper bathtub with a sloped back and hammered finish that Ashoka sketched and then commissioned artisans in Santa Clara de Cobre in the state of Michoacán to make.


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