The sleepy fishing village of Puerto Vallarta started coming alive in the early 60’s when early adventurers and celebrities like Tennessee Williams started flocking to its near perfect weather and remote beaches. There were no real hotels then and so these expatriates first bought houses in town and then later encouraged local craftsmen to build romantic vacation villas such as Casa Cosmos just to the south as soon as the newly constructed coastal road opened up.
Long before the advent of “eco-chic”, Puerto Vallarta’s pre-airport remoteness and difficult access required that these early buildings use local materials and employ environmental sensibilities: hand-hewn hardwoods from the local jungles, hand made tiles and brick, and native palm frawn thatch roof “palapas.” These first haciendas were actually rather simple almost colonial style buildings that used wood plantation shutter doors instead of sliding glass, wrought iron latches instead of factory doorknobs, and ceiling fans instead of air conditioning.
Casa Cosmos was built at that time by the late Mexico City society architect Alfredo Terrazes for his parents in his recently acquired exclusive private beach front family compound, sandwiched between his own house and that of his sister. Sr. Terrazes was something of a celebrity himself having just designed American heiress Barbara Hutton’s Cuernavaca villa. He later went on to become the initial architect of the nearby Camino Real Hotel (now DREAMS) on adjacent beach front he owned just to the north.
During this time, circumstances allowed him to bring to Puerto Vallarta a new sensibility to its local indigenous “environmental style”, making it less colonial and a more international, with an exciting “open” floorplan.
As preparation for her own house, Barbara Hutton had sent him to Japan to study that county’s elegant historical architecture. He later combined this Japanese sensibility with overstated Mexican craft materials of the area to create the quintessence of the exotic yet elegant romantic villa.
Unfortunately, Casa Cosmos is virtually the last remaining “environmental style” Terrazes house left in Puerto Vallarta. Over the last quarter century, many of the early Puerto Vallarta haciendas were simply torn down and replaced with more ‘predictable” Malibu or Beverly Hills styled architecture, including architect Terrazes’ long gone own spectacular cliff hugging villa and his sisters sprawling villa built on what is still the largest single family beach front lot in the area. By contrast, the new owners of Casa Cosmos during this time sought to modernize their property, not by tearing down, but by continuously updating and expanding inorder to honor and keep its original unique design.