- Architects: Studio arquitectos
- Location: Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
- Architects In Charge: Eduardo García Figueroa, Pablo García Figueroa, Paulina Villa Ramirez, Miguel Angel Cervantes, Juan Pablo Lascurain, Macarena Rossetti.
- Area: 1050.0 m2
- Project Year: 2016
- Photographs: Pablo García Figueroa
- Constructor: Ceiba constructores – Alberto Penny, Joanna Kunze
The Ceiba with its Chacas and Chechens
The project “Una Vida” is located in the south region of Tulum, Quintana Roo, 10 minutes from the Caribbean beaches and in the middle of the tropical lowland rainforest. The location area is 3,305 sqm and it has an irregular triangular shape, which limited the distribution of buildings and common areas.
Prior to the project distribution, a land survey was carried out in order to preserve most of the trees to reduce the impact on the area and to provide a more natural environment. This survey was useful to make an analysis regarding the separation and distribution of these trees.
This project came out from the idea of creating villas with flexibility for the different booking options, and looking forward to the possibility that they may work as homes in the future. As a result, we decided to divide this project in segments and also provide an organic tour through the whole project while discovering the different species of trees in the rainforest.
The maintenance areas are located in the smoothest surface, so is the temazcal (traditional Mayan steam bath). Then we have the different segments called Chaca and Chechen, and then, in the lower part, we have the common area that is connected to the building access. Villa Ceiba is located at the other end of the land, being a wider and more private area. These buildings are in parallel and separated from each other in order to allow the airflow to freshen the environment. This way, we also avoid having one overloaded building that may be dissociated from the surroundings. Additionally, the extensive vegetation and trees provide the necessary shade to cushion the impact of the Caribbean heat.
One of the first ideas of the project was to create a sort of village in the middle of the rainforest, with a rustic concept, using the region’s material resources such as stone and palm roof, keeping the natural style from the outside and at the same time providing the necessary warmth and purity for our guests’ comfort on the inside.
As a concept, we tried to include abstractly in the design three elements related to the natural cycles and the environment: roots, soil and trees. The roots that spread through the rainforest just like our guests’ tour; the soil that gives life to the environment, maintaining its essence and incorporating the natural elements to the design; and the trees represented by the different buildings of this project. And this is why the segments (made up of different units) have the names of trees typical of the area: Chaca, Chechen and Ceiba.
The Chechen is a poisonous tree, whose resin may burn the skin of whoever touches it, whereas, the Chaca is the antidote. The Ceiba is considered a sacred species of trees in the Mayan culture, and also a symbol of wisdom; this tree represents the life-death-life cycle. As a result, each element of this project represents life, its cycles and connections, all of them reflected in the guests’ experience while in contact with the Tulum atmosphere.
The Chaca segments are the smallest ones with one bedroom unit and one kitchen-living room-dining room unit. The Chechen segments are composed by three units: two bedroom units and one kitchen-living room-dining room. The same pattern is repeated in ground and first floor of both segments to cushion the footprint in the land. These units allow flexibility if the guest needs to add bedroom units, preventing the limitation of the market to one sector (couples, families, and so on). Then we have the biggest and unique Villa Ceiba, composed by three bedrooms, living room and kitchen area, and garden with private pool. Every apartment located in the ground floor has outdoor shower and tub, providing a very different and natural experience.
Every bedroom unit is oriented to the north of the land to provide freshness to the room; whereas the public and service areas are located in the south near the path which crosses the land and is located in the south as well. In this manner, we achieve privacy in the bedrooms, providing rainforest landscapes and receive the prevailing winds.
We also created an indoor gallery of the Chaca and Chechen trees in the ground floor with wooden louvers as entrances to the units, simulating a layer to provide privacy and create a space between outside and inside. These louvers are all over the ground floor and their form change into handrails of the first floor.
The building morphology is composed by vertical planes of stone holding a slab, simulating lightness of the Chaca and Chechen social segments. These slabs are outside the vertical planes to give a light appearance due to the material they are made off (chukum).
In the specific case of Villa Ceiba, it has the best orientation, which is the east; it provides the guest more privacy and a view over their garden.
In this segment, the planes of stone hold two large pieces of chukum, giving symmetry and lightness to this combination, which is seen as the fusion of both parts in perfect balance.
Every material employed in this project has a specific role: the regional stone gives a rustic and a wild touch, whereas the (chukum) polished cement gives a clean and austere aspect.
The wood helps us to blend the complex and the rainforest. Additionally, vegetation is important in this project, giving it the identity, privacy, and life to the image of the place. The materials give balance to the complex, offering a natural experience and remembrance of the region.