The Xcalak project is located in a natural reserve in Quintana Roo called Xcalak, in the southern Mayan coast. The area hosts Xcalak Marine Park, one of the largest coral reefs on the planet and part of the Mesoamerican Reef System. Although one can find Mahahual (a quickly developing touristic sightseeing) at only 60 km away, getting to Xcalak is still quite difficult. These elements were central to how we decided to approach this project.
One of our main concerns doing this project was to respect the natural and cultural environment, proving that sustainable and responsible architecture can be achieved and should be promoted. Respecting the environment means acknowledging it. The Caribbean is an area prone to hurricanes which frequently result in flooding leading to human and material losses. This project has to address these issues; it has to think about sustainability holistically, i.e. respecting and protecting nature and its inhabitants.
Some of the main elements we thought about as a way of aligning to an ecologically conscious architecture were the following: which materials to use, how to produce power, how to handle waste and how to obtain water. The entire house is built on a steel-less structure using only concrete, which provides shelter in case of a hurricane or flooding, and tropical wood sourced locally from responsible providers. The finishings on the walls are chukum, a smooth waterproof stucco made of the resin of the Chukum tree. The project aims to evoke tradition through its materials, design and construction technique so it can be easily built locally.
This house gets all its power from the wind and the sun, it collects rainwater and it composts all its waste by using, among other things, composting toilets. The rooftop offers a spectacular view of the reservoir, while also being the ideal place to install solar panels and a water collecting system. The rooms and public spaces are ventilated using a cross ventilation system of drafts allowing the place to be cool without the need of air conditioning.
The house is three stories high, the first floor being the shelter area, the second the living quarters and the third the rooftop, a contemplation area. The house is composed of four pavilions: one is where public life occurs, two are for the private rooms and the fourth is where the services are housed. Each pavilion has a free space open to the beach which offers protection from the sun yet without losing the feeling of being in an open space and in contact with the ocean, the beach and nature. The first floor is a solid cube where the rooms, and kitchen are located. The house is built on pillars which protects it from the hurricane floodings.