Tijuana House by Jorge Gracia
In 2004, dangerous living conditions prompted architect Jorge Gracia and his wife to move from Gracia’s hometown of Tijuana to San Diego to raise their young family; there, Gracia, a 2012 Record Vanguard choice, established his own practice. The once-notorious border town has since sought to shed its reputation for drug violence and raucous spring break parties, positioning itself as a burgeoning tech hub. With the idea of founding a new graduate school for architecture there, as well as a second office, Gracia returned with his family in 2016, in need of a house for two by then adolescent children and a new baby on the way.
For the site, Gracia chose a lot in a newly developed yet largely vacant residential neighborhood. Citing a Midcentury Modern influence for the house’s rectilinear form, the architect clad the two-story steel-and-concrete structure’s upper level—portions of which are cantilevered—with ipé. The ipé extends to the interior, covering the ceilings to provide a warm contrast to exposed-concrete walls. Given the lack of views, says Gracia, it was important to create a personal oasis, hidden from the neighbors and the street: a lush, walled-off, rear patio is linked to the interior via fully glazed sliding doors that wrap around the living and dining rooms. Two discreet entrances—tucked away in a side alley or inside the ground-floor garage—enhance a sense of privacy. In addition to providing seclusion, these informal entries offer insight into Gracia’s personal design philosophy, which eschews spatial hierarchy: “There’s no distinction in social class,” he says, “and I like that.”