This article is part of our new series "Material in Focus", where we ask architects to share with us their creative process through the choice of materials that define important parts of the construction of their buildings.
Niop Hacienda from AS Arquitectura and R79 is part architectural regeneration project part historical building involving the transformation of an abandoned industrial space into high-end tourist complex in the southeast region of Mexico. A desire to maintain the original feel of the place influenced the selection of the new materials (like steel, stone, chukum, wood and glass) in order to create new spaces for public and private use that meld with the existing structure. In this interview, we talked with Roberto Ramirez from R79 who explains more about how the material choice of the project contributed to the design and construction process.
What were the main materials used in the project?
RR: Chukum, Wood, Glass, Steel, Concrete, Stone, Tile Mosaics, Bamboo (Bahareque).
In terms of materials, what were the major sources of inspiration and influence in selecting them?
RR: We used materials that were neutral, timeless, and, depending on how we used them, could be viewed as modern or historical.
Describe how decisions on materials were considered within the conceptual design.
RR: We were able to put together a wide range, so that what we’re going to use for this project will in no way obscure the existing structure, but instead give it more strength, character and fill it with a revitalized glamor.
What were the advantages of these materials when constructing the project?
RR: Each material offers different advantages, sometimes the steel for its lightness and how easy it is to build with helped us to reach decisions in our operation. In others, like the stone, used as floors coverings and cut on a regular basis helped us to give the feeling of connection and revitalization to the existing rock. The glass helped us to provide a close relationship between the exterior and the interior and, through some use of wood, this relationship was controlled or framed. Concrete helped us unleash the platforms and floors on which the buildings emerged in search of attention, serving as a neutral base to highlight what we wanted. The chukum was one of the elements who shook things up the most, this ancient technique of mixing resins to achieve a kind of living plaster, because after it is applied it ages in a very genuine way; it lets us cover some of the surfaces that were in better shape, causing the surrounding areas that had lost their finish to stand out like scars of time, with new and wonderful appeal.
Were there any challenges you faced due to the selection of materials?
RR: Many, the main one was working with local materials, especially with the stone and the wood, that were either extracted and cut in the area or its surroundings; Or, certain tasks like using the metal, whether they were found pieces that we used to make tables or furniture, or to quickly train people on how to use them to create artisanal pieces.
Were any other possible materials considered for the project? And if so, how would the design have changed?
RR: No other materials were considered.
How did you research and select the suppliers or contractors for the materials used in the project?
RR: In relation to suppliers, the chukum was a supplier in Merida that has the patent in the area and has successfully marketed the product, we had already worked with them on several projects, we like the personal attention and the supervision that they give to their teams on jobs they work on and we have formed an interesting relationship. As far as choosing the other contractors, the client, who was greatly involved in the project, introduced us to many local artisans in Merida, and after meetings and sketches of the project, we found complementary and inclusionary ways to work together when looking for more fine-tuned solutions. It was a great team effort where the plans were merely guides, the will and the sense of belonging were the engine, and that has given us great results so far.
* Recently Hacienda Niop was awarded the CEMEX 2016 Building Award in the Building category of the Mexico Edition.