Casa Mérida is a single family house project located in the historic center of Mérida, a few blocks away from its main central square, in its colonial area. Mérida is the capital of Yucatán, but also the capital of the Mayan culture, Yucatán representing a large part of the mexican mayan territory.
In spite of the fact this civilisation disappeared long time before spanish people arrived, Mayan people and languages always survived and still exist today, which always made this region very unique and different than any other in México ; a sort of small country within the country, with its own way of thinking.
Another very important point is the fact that Mérida has a very peculiar warm weather all year long, with intense temperatures and a peak that can reach 40o celsius in May, as well as a very high level of humidity, specially during the rainy season from June until the end of September.
Through centuries, this weather led the architecture of the city to a recognizable traditional typology, a mix of history of its colonization with its Mexican tropical reality from Yucatán, which resulted in a singular tropicalized colonial style. This typology is basically based on natural crossed ventilation under high ceiling volumes, all connected together by a series of patios letting the air flow through the entire house, providing this way a natural cooling system.
For many centuries it has been the way of building, and it shaped a certain image of Mérida until AC ( air conditioning ) appeared, and made any kind of architecture possible around the old historic center, since the absolut need of crossed ventilation could now be balanced. Mérida is a city where life without AC is almost impossible, and where it became very usual to use it 24 hours a day.
How can we step back from this intense use of AC Mérida is doing today ?
And what could be the possibilities architecture is offering us ?
With this goal in mind and having a look at the past, came the following question :
How is it possible to build architecture that reflects and considers the yucatán identity, to make this house belong to its territory ?
In other words, how could this house be mayan ?
Casa Mérida project is exploring the relation between contemporary and traditional architecture, both connected through a very simple use of vernacular references.
When entering for the first time on site, something memorable was the unique proportion of the plot, which is a broken rectangle of 80 meters long X 8 meters wide, looking like a big lane.
Here came the one and only idea of the project : to preserve this 80 meters perspective, as a straight line, crossing the entire plot from the entrance door until the ending point, where the swimming pool is located ; Inserting back the traditional air flow cooling concept as a starting point.
But it was not only about the air circulation, this long perspective is also referring to the mayan antic culture and architecture, and more precisely to its mayan « Sacbé » literally the white path, stoneways covered with white limestone stuc. Those straight lines used to connect all together the different elements, temples, plazas, pyramids and cenotes ( natural sinkhole, full of clear water, used for sacrifice and offers to the gods ) of a mayan city; sacred ways which could even go from one site to another along a few hundred kilometers.
By using the perspective, this very simple classical architecture artefact as a central element and main idea, the project got immediately structured along this line, converted then in a long concrete wall guide, a sort of axis visually organizing the house, as well as all the movements, since it’s also working as the main circulation hallway.
In a second stage of the project development, it naturally and literally appeared as a vertebral column, therefore it became the main structural concrete element to carry all the rooftop slabs.
With its airflow column, Casa Mérida went back to an original and elemental principle of the vernacular yucatec architecture, the natural crossed ventilation, which then brought the project to a second question : How is it possible to reach the best autosuffisance in the middle of a city, without being so dependent of modern technologies, to try to be more responsible with the energy waste management of the place ?
This next concern took the project towards the idea of disconnecting the house from the city to get a better control on it, basically creating a sort of isolated countryside situation in the middle of an urban context.
Text provided by the architect