Architects: Ludwig Godefroy     Photography: Rory Gardiner     Construction Period:  2020     Location:  Mérida, Mexico

Hidden behind rough stone walls and unbeknownst to the passerby, lies a jaw-dropping concrete oasis in Mérida, Mexico. Casa Mérida is a family home that goes back to basics by referencing indigenous Mayan architecture. Ludwig Godefroy, an architect from Mexico City, tackled this project by addressing a few key questions: Can we achieve a level of self-sufficiency in the city? Can we reduce our reliance on active modes of cooling such as air conditioning? And finally, can this home be more representative of its Yucatán identity? All the answers could be found by looking to the past and uncovering traditional Mayan building techniques.

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Casa Mérida is located in the largest Yucatán state which experiences extreme climates. The consistently high temperatures have resulted in a heavy reliance on air-conditioning and it is very common for modern houses to run it all day! In resistance to this idea, exceptional efforts were made to embrace the traditional Mayan way of building which have ‘sustainable practices’ at its core (without the need for buzz words). According to Godefroy, “this typology is basically based on natural crossed ventilation under high ceiling volumes, all connected together by a series of patios letting the airflow through the entire house, providing… a natural cooling system.” To reach self-sufficiency from the city, a closed-loop water system was devised by drilling a borehole to source water in the subsoil. A biodigester treats the house’s dirty water to use for the garden and absorption wells collect rainwater and are placed under water collectors. These sculptural collectors and wells conceive the most beautiful, still moments that accentuate the exquisite concrete form of the house. Other self-sustaining measures have been employed such as solar boilers and panels provide hot water and electricity for the whole house, and large timber louvre windows and doors to control the light atmosphere.

The home is broken up in sections across the long, narrow site with outdoor spaces interspersed throughout to naturally ventilate the house. “The outdoor spaces [are] integrated as part of the inner space, vanishing the classical border between in and out, increasing the visual depth…to create a more generous amplitude sensation of the volumes,” explains Godefroy. The layout of the home is structured along a concrete wall that runs the entire length of the site. Off it hang separate bedroom and living shelters as well as the outdoor patios. Instead of enclosing people, the house is open and breathes while still providing the essential feeling of protection and privacy.

Text provided by the architect.