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First look: ZHA wins planning for Mexican residential scheme

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Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has won planning permission for three residential buildings in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico

The Alai scheme on the country’s north-eastern Yucatán Peninsula features three 15-storey towers raised on a 9m platform to preserve access for wildlife. 

Backed by Mexican developer Pulso Inmobiliario, it also includes a pool, ‘botanical nursery’ and woodland nature reserve. 

The practice recently opened an office in Mexico City and is already working on a number of major projects in the country. Its first, a high-density housing scheme in Mexico’s third-largest city, Monterrey, was unveiled in 2015 (see AJ 13.05.15).

Architect’s view

Located on a site prepared by a previous owner for an unbuilt complex, Alai’s design is guided by principles of integrating a new residential community while also minimising the effect on local ecosystems. The design has significantly reduced its environmental impact by limiting the combined footprint of all residential buildings to less than 7 per cent of the site’s total area, enabling existing vegetation to be retained and a majority of the site to be returned to its natural state through an ongoing programme of replanting planned in conjunction with landscape architects GROSS.MAX.

The residential buildings share an elevated platform with integrated perforations, allowing natural light to flood the ground below and enabling tropical vegetation to grow upwards through the platform. Amenities for sport, leisure and wellness are located on this raised platform 9m above the ground to ensure local wildlife can cross the entire site on the woodland floor without barriers. 

Echoing the rich textures and surface complexity within the local Mayan masonry and architectural tradition derived from the repetition and variation of a small number of geometric components, the differing texture and patterning of each building’s façade within Alai is generated by assembling the balcony units and façade elements in varying sequences. 

Alai’s design is defined by its rich natural environment and reinterprets local Mayan heritage in a contemporary adaptation, responding directly to the challenges of the Yucatan Peninsula’s increasing popularity with visitors from around the world while at the same time fostering the conservation of its original natural woodland and coastal wetland.

Project data

Architect Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)
Client Pulso Inmobiliario
Associate local architect and landscape architect GVA Arquitectura Integral
Landscape design concept GROSS.MAX
Environmental consultant Q2 Consultor
Planning consultant Hitech Caribe
Project management SUDOCC
Structural consultant BAC – García Jarque Ingenieros
MEP PGI Ingenieros
Façade consultant Front Inc.
Lighting consultant Luz y Forma

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