Casa Mérida is a project located in the historic center of Mérida.
Mérida is the capital of Yucatán, but also the capital of the Mayan culture, and Yucatán represents a large part of the Mexican Mayan territory.
Mérida is a city where life without air conditioning is almost impossible, and where it was very common to use it 24 hours a day. How can we take a step back from this intense use of air conditioning that Mérida is doing today? And what could be the possibilities that architecture offers us?
With this goal in mind and looking at the past, the following question arose: How is it possible to build an architecture that reflects and considers the identity of Yucatan, so that this house belongs to its territory? In other words, how could this house be Mayan?
The Casa Merida project explores the relationship between contemporary and traditional architecture, both connected through a very simple use of vernacular references.
Upon first entering the site, one thing that was memorable was the unique proportion, which is a rectangle 80 meters long X 8 meters wide, which looks like a large lane.
Here the only idea of the project arose: to preserve this 80-meter perspective, as a straight line, crossing the entire land from the entrance gate to the endpoint, where the pool is located; Inserting the traditional airflow cooling concept as a starting point.
But it was not just about air circulation, this long perspective also refers to antic Mayan culture and architecture, and more precisely to its Mayan “Sacbé”, literally the white path, the stones covered in white limestone stucco.
With its airflow column, Casa Merida returned to an original and elemental principle of vernacular Yucatecan architecture, natural cross-ventilation, which then led the project to a second question: how is it possible to achieve the best self-sufficiency in the midst of a city, without being so dependent on modern technologies, to try to be more responsible with the management of the energy waste of the place?
This next concern led the project towards the idea of disconnecting the house from the city in order to have better control over it, basically creating a kind of isolated rural situation in the middle of an urban context.
To physically disconnect Casa Mérida from the city, the design has been modified by changing the social area with the backyard area; sending the living room, the kitchen, and the pool to the end of the plot, in addition to the quietest area where the noise from the street no longer reaches; to bring the functional courtyard to the front, to use it as a buffer in the city.
To disconnect typologically.
In addition to the permutation between front and back, the overall layout of the house is also arranged according to a regular rhythm of positive built area and negative empty area, so as to always generate empty spaces on both sides of the built spaces, making sure that the gardens participate instead of being only ornamental juxtapositions.
The outdoor spaces were integrated as part of the interior space, blurring the classic border between inside and outside, increasing the visual depth to create a more generous spaciousness of the volumes.
Casa Mérida is inverting the classic scheme of the house with its garden, to create a singular inhabitable garden with its house.
To disconnect electrically.
To conclude, after sensibly insulating the house, came the last obvious point of disconnecting the house, electrically speaking, from the city.
To complete a full cycle of water regeneration, rainwater had to return to the subsoil, and soaking wells were designed to fulfill this function, placed under sculptural water collectors, which became part of the aesthetics of the home.
The wastewater system was also disconnected from the city system, using a biodigester to treat dirty water and generate irrigation for the garden.
The full cycle from pumping to regeneration, without making the city take care of our wasted water, has been completed.
The last point was electricity, solved through the use of obvious but adequate technologies, such as solar boilers to heat the water, as well as solar panels to cover the rest of the electricity needs.
To reconnect culturally.
The project is willing to get rid of the unnecessary, without finishing and without decoration, to preserve only the structural part, as well as only simple materials.
The Mayan cream stone walls have been built in the traditional way by covering the joints with stone chips, a typical Yucatan stone used in Mayan pyramids and Mayan temples.
Raw concrete has also been used for the floors and walls, definitely industrial but still produced locally in Mérida, the main structural material.
Finally, to control the light atmosphere, huge wooden slatted windows and doors have been designed. Construction reaches 90% on site, with local materials and built exclusively by Yucatecan masons and carpenters, a kind of modern reinterpretation of what vernacular architecture could mean.
Made of massive materials that do not require special treatments or maintenance, accepting aging and time as part of the architecture process, the house has been conceptualized to end one day covered by a new layer of materiality: a layer of patina.
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