Palm and Straw Roofs: Examples in Mexico That Explore Their Possibilities

Palm and Straw Roofs: Examples in Mexico That Explore Their Possibilities

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Architecture in Mexico has a vast history that is made up of various aspects that touch astrological, political, spiritual and economic issues. Although today there are only ruins of some of the most important pre-Hispanic complexes, thanks to the in-depth research that has been carried out, we can have some representations of what those buildings that laid the foundations of what makes us today were like. In these representations, it is possible to notice the presence of natural materials that were a response to their environment such as basalt stone, stucco and some vegetable paintings whose remains persist to this day.

However, this architecture was made up of other elements based on perishable materials whose construction techniques have been inherited to date. Such is the case of the roofs made of palm, straw or "palapas", which were used in the Mayan huts themselves that consist of a vernacular dwelling with walls made of cane and adobe, covered by a roof of palm leaves placed on a wooden frame. However, due to the diversity and great size of the country, it is possible to find other examples in which the roofs of the houses or buildings were crowned with similar techniques.

Currently, due to the growing interest in biodegradable materials and sustainable construction methods, various explorations have risen that seek to rescue these techniques by adapting to contemporary requirements. That is why on this occasion, we present you a list of examples in different latitudes of the country so that you can explore the different applications with photographs and architectural diagrams. Read on for the complete selection. 

Punta Caliza Hotel Holbox / ESTUDIO MACIAS PEREDO

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Punta Caliza Hotel Holbox / ESTUDIO MACIAS PEREDO. Image © César Béjar

"The beach is far away. In a 'residual' terrain, not facing the sea and near the untouchable limit of the mangrove, three bays have their own aquatic landscape in this hotel. Three long, green, vegetable roofs house the rooms without touching each other. This way, the 'palapa' preserves its clear and simple construction. This archaic logic, learned from the Mayan house, allows the walls to free themselves from their structural work. Once the walls are released, the room is sheltered between the water, that seeps in from the flooded patio, in a brief reminder of the mangrove that populates the island of Holbox. Relaxing under a 'palapa' built with solid cedar and an intense aroma, experiencing it as a space, is the premise of all the rooms, which for this reason they don't allow a second floor."

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Punta Caliza Hotel Holbox / ESTUDIO MACIAS PEREDO. Image © Estudio Macías Peredo
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Punta Caliza Hotel Holbox / ESTUDIO MACIAS PEREDO. Image © Estudio Macías Peredo

Escondido / Alberto Kalach

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Escondido / Taller de Arquitectura X / Alberto Kalach. Image Cortesía de Alberto Kalach

"Each cabin was designed based on a simple wooden structure, constructed in modules of 3x3 metres, concentrating the humid core towards the centre of the house, in order to leave the bedroom and common area at opposite ends with views of the landscape and a wide, covered, perimeter terrace. Using the same modulation, other rooms were used for kitchen and dining room services. The houses are camouflaged in the local landscape, being identifiable only by their crooked roofs, that stick out like profiles of birds."

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Escondido / Taller de Arquitectura X / Alberto Kalach. Image Cortesía de Alberto Kalach

Wabi House / Tadao Ando Architect and Associates

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Casa Wabi / Tadao Ando Architect and Associates. Image © Edmund Sumner

"Wabi House is a project by the architect Tadao Ando, where BAAQ' collaborated as an associate architect in the development of the executive project and the coordination of the construction. It is located on the coast of Oaxaca, 30 minutes from the city of Puerto Escondido on a site of 25 hectares. Wabi House is a foundation created by the artist Bosco Sodi whose objective is to foment the exchange of ideas between artists from different disciplines and local communities. All the spaces in Wabi House have been designed to accentuate the landscape of the area. The facilities include six private bedrooms, two shared studios, one multipurpose room, one screening room, an exhibition room, a sculpture garden, and multiple recreational spaces. The whole project was built in concrete under the quality guidelines of the architect Tadao Ando and with traditional 'palapas' from the coast."

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Casa Wabi / Tadao Ando Architect and Associates. Image © Edmund Sumner
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Casa Wabi / Tadao Ando Architect and Associates. Image © Tadao Ando Architects and Associates

Casa Cal / BAAQ'

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Casa Cal / BAAQ'. Image © Edmund Sumner

"Part of the new design strategy was to house the bedrooms and private rooms on the ground floor, and the social area on the second floor, taking advantage of the sea wind by creating air currents through the whole house, the insertion of gardens to cool the surrounding floors and maintaining the tiles in the rooms shaded. All of this made it possible to avoid the need for air conditioning in any part of the house. The north and west were delimited by a 5-metre white wall with traditional lattices that were placed in specific points to allow the flow of the wind that comes from the sea and that passes through the carpentry in the form of a grid, cooling to rooms to a great extent."

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Casa Cal / BAAQ'. Image © Edmund Sumner
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Casa Cal / BAAQ'. Image

House on the Pacific / Bernardi + Peschard Arquitectura

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Casa en el Pacifico / Bernardi + Peschard arquitectura. Image © Rafael Gamo

"The project was born responding to the needs of a beach house. The architectural split is created from a central volume, of greater size and height, which divides, dialogues and perfectly denotes the condition of use of the rotating spaces around it, fragmenting until it becomes a series of independent pavilions, giving the complex conditioning of a beach villa and breaking with the massive schemes of the houses that we can find around it. The public area of the house is found on the inside and on the sides of the main volume: the dining room has a 'palapa' of natural parota wood spanning longer than 10 metres that functions as a transition to the semi-private and private spaces, such as the family room, the guest rooms and the main bedroom. This element has a foreground focus on the private beach on the Pacific coast. This area was designed with the premise that it would be the common space or the heart of the house, thus explaining its position near the sea, its imposing height and size."

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Casa en el Pacifico / Bernardi + Peschard arquitectura. Image © Rafael Gamo
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Casa en el Pacifico / Bernardi + Peschard arquitectura. Image © Bernardi + Peschard arquitectura

Chacala House / CoA Arquitectura + Macías Peredo Studio

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Casa Chacala / CoA arquitectura + Estudio Macías Peredo. Image © Francisco Gutiérrez Peregrina

"The commission consisted of a resting house that would contemplate the social areas and the main bedroom on the ground floor and overlooking the sea, four bedrooms to accommodate a family in each of the service areas. An enormous fig tree, a palm tree and the search of visual openings towards the sea, dictated the axes of the project. The palm tree serves as a pretext to confine an entrance patio, in which the vegetation in dialogue with the apparent structure, welcomes and announces what the theme of the whole house will be: a grid of columns and beams that in a skeleton-like manner, modulate, order, delimit and qualify the different spaces. The main enclosure is made up of a 'palapa' that houses a living room and open dining rooms, adjoining a pool that serves as the end of the house, which dilutes its limit with the marine horizon."

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Casa Chacala / CoA arquitectura + Estudio Macías Peredo. Image © CoA arquitectura + Estudio Macías Peredo

Una Vida Boutique Villas / Studio arquitectos

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Una Vida Boutique Villas / Studio Arquitectos. Image © Pablo García Figueroa

"The project 'Una Vida' is located in the south region of Tulum, Quintana Roo, 10 minutes from the Caribbean beaches and in the middle of the tropical lowland rainforest. The location area is 3,305 sqm and it has an irregular triangular shape, which limited the distribution of buildings and common areas. One of the first ideas of the project was to create a sort of village in the middle of the rainforest, with a rustic concept, using the region’s material resources such as stone and palm roof, keeping the natural style from the outside and at the same time providing the necessary warmth and purity for our guests’ comfort on the inside."

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Una Vida Boutique Villas / Studio Arquitectos. Image © Studio Arquitectos

Jungle Keva / Jaquestudio

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Jungle Keva / Jaquestudio. Image © César Béjar

"Situated in Tulum, this small boutique hotel rises between the trees, in which the main concept consisted of preserving 70% of the existing vegetation in order to build around it. By achieving this, every space of the project is always in relation to its natural surroundings. The objective was to use materials that age with dignity so that with the passing of time the architecture acquires character and a deeper sense of belonging. The different volumes of the complex are scattered along the lot, between the trees and stone paths, which provide a sensation of being in a small village in the Mayan jungle."

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Jungle Keva / Jaquestudio. Image © César Béjar
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Jungle Keva / Jaquestudio. Image © Jaquestudio

Luum Temple / CO-LAB Design Office

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Templo luum / CO-LAB Design Office. Image © César Béjar

"Inspired by the work of Felix Candela, the project consists of a structure made up of 5  bamboo hyperbolas. Assembled from flat sections of bamboo folded on-site, bolted and tied together, the individual woven elements work together as one. The cover is composed, on the outside, of a layer of Zacate (straw) typical of the region, that protects the structure from rain and allows for it to breathe in the humid, tropical climate."

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Templo luum / CO-LAB Design Office. Image © César Béjar
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Templo luum / CO-LAB Design Office. Image © CO-LAB Design Office

Vida House / Zozaya Arquitectos

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Casa La Vida / Zozaya Arquitectos. Image © César Belio

"The 'La Vida' House is located in the magical town of Troncones. It has a rectangular land with an area of ​​2000 sqm. The surface of the land is flat, having access through the main street of Troncones. The central concept of the project was to create a contemporary house, with large spaces but preserving the already traditional Zihuatanejo style in the area, taking advantage of local materials and the excellent workmanship of our local masters. The central volume of the house consists of two volumes that frame a 'palapa' in the centre where the living and dining areas are located. The 'palapa', having a very high roof and using materials such as dry palm, allows us to create a very spacious and fresh space for most of the year, and also takes advantage of the breeze that crosses the space causing a decrease in temperature in a natural way."

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Casa La Vida / Zozaya Arquitectos. Image © Zozaya Arquitectos

House Mirlo / PALMA

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Vivienda Mirlo / PALMA. Image © Natalia García

"For this home renovation project in Sayulita, two main actions were carried out. In the centre of the house, in the original location of the kitchen, part of the roof was removed to create an interior courtyard that serves as an access and distribution hall between the private and public areas. When removing the roof, the original wooden structure that supported the concrete slab was preserved as a witness of the intervention. The second action consisted of incorporating a new volume that adheres to the existing construction to house the public area. By means of a masonry base on which the metal structures are placed, the new element allows a constant visual relationship with the exterior, taking advantage of the privileged views towards the sea and the beach. The roof of the new volume is a 'palapa', a characteristic construction of the coastal areas of Mexico based on a wooden structure covered with palm leaves. The public area manages to expand the space by opening on one side towards the interior courtyard of the house and towards a terrace that intensifies the relationship with the outside on the opposite side."

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Vivienda Mirlo / PALMA. Image © PALMA

Litibú Bungalow / PALMA

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Bungalow Litibú / PALMA. Image © Luis Young

"The 50 sqm bungalow is located in Litibu, a small city on the coast of the Mexican Pacific. The bedroom and living space are separated in two volumes to create an open patio in the middle. The climate was the main driver of the design, high 'palapa' ceilings cover the main spaces, which in turn can open fully towards the outside. Pigmented stucco was used rather than paint to avoid humidity build-up in the walls."

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Bungalow Litibú / PALMA. Image © PALMA

El Perdido Hotel / estudio ALA

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Hotel el perdido / estudio ALA. Image © Iwan Baan

"The vernacular materiality allows the visitor to connect with the local way of life in Pescadero, where the endemic vegetation, earthen walls, wooden structure, and palm roofs personify the heritage of Baja California Sur. This palette, typically disregarded in contemporary development for imported materials and tropical vegetation, is defined exclusively by locally sourced materials and built by local craftsmen. Resisting convention, the architectural experience is imbued with the distinct terroir of the region while reinvigorating an appreciation for local construction."

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Hotel el perdido / estudio ALA. Image © Iwan Baan
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Hotel el perdido / estudio ALA. Image © estudio ALA

Casa Cova / anonimous

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Casa Cova / anonimous. Image © Rafael Gamo

"The house consists of two main parts: a large central common area and two parallel arms located on the side of the lot containing the private suites. The large-scale central volume marks the access to the house, which has two main side entrances that pass through a lattice-wall, helping to ventilate the common spaces and creating a dynamic light pattern from dusk to dawn. This central volume is embodied in a high-ceilinged multipurpose public space containing a living room, a dining area and a bar. The volume is crowned by a 30-meter long 'palapa', a regional hedging technique made from dried palm leaves, which cools tropical temperatures down to around 23°C providing shade and space for heat to escape through the top of the frame."

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Casa Cova / anonimous. Image © anonimous

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Cite: Arellano, Mónica. "Palm and Straw Roofs: Examples in Mexico That Explore Their Possibilities" [Techos de palma y paja: ejemplos en México que exploran sus posibilidades] 04 Jan 2022. ArchDaily. (Trans. Pérez Bravo, Amelia) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/974339/palm-and-straw-roofs-examples-in-mexico-that-explore-their-possibilities> ISSN 0719-8884

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