Zaha Hadid Architects Unveil Plans for Ecological Residences along Mayan Riviera

Zaha Hadid Architects has unveiled plans to design a new residential development for the Mayan Riviera, along the Caribbean coastline of Mexico. Located on a lush tropical site, the new development ‘Alai’ is to respond to its natural surroundings and show “reinterpretation of local traditional architecture.” The number of tourists who come to visit the Mayan Riviera increases yearly, reaching up to 20 million arrivals in 2016. As a result of this growth, the resort district has, also, become a business center, and the number of its inhabitants has increased by 100% since 2000. With the significant rise in population, came the need for a new residential complex to house large numbers of the new inhabitants without disturbing the natural balance of the tropical region.


Alai will be located on a site that had been already prepared for another complex that was never built. However, the architects are planning to limit the project’s footprint to only 7% of the site’s total area. This shall help keep the existing vegetation and restore the site’s natural state with the aid of a replanting program which is to be managed in cooperation with landscape architects, Gross Max. A botanical nursery will be introduced to the site, and it will play an important role in retrieving the species and ecosystem which were lost due to previous works on the site, in addition to becoming a tourist attraction and an educational facility. Also, woodland nature and coastal wetland reserves will be created to protect and enrich the mangroves of the Nichupté lagoon. Suspended paths will allow visitors to enter the woodlands without disturbing the ground.


As for the residential buildings, they will all share an elevated platform and have perforated façades which shall let the natural light pass through to the tropical vegetation on the ground below. The platform will be raised 9m from the ground, allowing the vegetation and local wildlife to spread all over the woodlands without obstructions. On top of the platform, there will be sports, leisure, and wellness amenities with views of the treetops, lagoon, and the Caribbean coast. The apartment will be designed into four different typologies, and each will be provided with a private balcony which shall be accessible from the glazed exterior walls. The balconies will offer the residents with stunning views as well as natural ventilation. The Mayan-inspired texture of the façade, according to the architects, is created by “assembling the balcony units and façade elements in varying sequences,” and provides solar shading for the apartments in addition to the aesthetic value.

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