Text description provided by the architects. Casa Merida 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.
Merida 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 Merida project is exploring the relationship 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 airflow cooling concept as a starting point. But it was not only about the air circulation, but this long perspective is also referring to the Mayan antic culture and architecture, and more precisely to its Mayan « Sacbé » literally the white path, stone ways covered with white limestone stuc.
With its airflow column, Casa Merida 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 self-sufficiency 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 better control over it, basically creating a sort of isolated countryside situation in the middle of an urban context. To physically disconnect Casa Mérida from the city, the layout has been modified by switching the social area with the backyard area; sending the living room, kitchen and swimming pool to the end of the land, furthermore the quietest area where the noise of the street doesn't reach you anymore; in order to bring the functional backyard to the front, to use it as a buffer on the city.
To typologically disconnect. In addition to the permutation between front and back, the general layout of the house is also organized according to a regular rhythm of positive built area and negative empty area, to always generate empty spaces on both sides of the built spaces, making the gardens participate instead of only being juxtaposed ornamental ones. The outdoor spaces got integrated as part of the inner space, vanishing the classical border between in and out, increasing the visual depth in order to create a more generous amplitude sensation of the volumes. Casa Merida is inverting the classical scheme of the house with its garden, to create a singular habitable garden with its house.
To electrically disconnect. To conclude, after isolating the house in a sensitive way, came the last obvious point of disconnecting the house, electrically speaking, from the city. To complete a full cycle of water regeneration, the rainwater had to go back to this subsoil, and absorption wells were designed to fulfill this function, placed under sculptural water collectors, which became part of the aesthetic of the house. The wasted water system also got disconnected from the one of the city, using a biodigester to treat the dirty water and generate water for the garden. The full cycle from pumping to regenerating without letting the city in charge of our wasted water was now completed. The last point was the electricity, resolved by using obvious but proper technologies, such as solar boilers to warm the water, as well as solar panels to cover the rest of the needs in electricity.
To culturally reconnect. The project is willing to get rid of the unnecessary, no finishing and no decoration, to only preserve the structural part, as well as only simple materials. Mayan cream stone walls have been built in a traditional way by covering the joints with the stone splinters, typical stone from Yucatán used in antic Mayan pyramids, and temples sites. The brut concrete has also been used for the floors and the walls, definitely industrial but still locally produced in Mérida, the main structural material. Finally, to control the light atmosphere, massive wooden louver windows and doors have been designed. The construction is reaching a 90% made on-site, with local materials and built exclusively by Yucatec masons and carpenters, a sort of modern reinterpretation of what could mean vernacular architecture. 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 up one day covered by a new coat of materiality: a layer of patina.