Zaha Hadid Architects’ Alai serves up sustainable luxury in Mexico

Designed in response to its natural surroundings, Alai “marries ecological considerations, engaging design and a reinterpretation of local architectural tradition,

The number of visitors to the Mayan Riviera is increasing by over 10 per cent each year – surpassing 20 million arrivals in 2016, while its residential population has almost doubled since the year 2000.

Accommodating this continued growth in popularity while also curtailing its impact on the environment must be the principal driver for all new projects in the region, Zaha Hadid Architects says.

Located on a site prepared by a previous owner for an unbuilt complex, Alai’s design is guided by these principles of integrating a new residential community while also minimising the effect on local ecosystems. The design has significantly reduced its environmental impact by limiting the combined footprint of all residential buildings to less than 7 per cent of the site’s total area, enabling existing vegetation to be retained and a majority of the site to be returned to its natural state through an ongoing programme of replanting planned in conjunction with landscape architects, Gross Max.

The residential buildings share an elevated platform with integrated perforations, allowing natural light to flood the ground below and enabling tropical vegetation to grow upwards through the platform. Amenities for sport, leisure and wellness are located on this raised platform, nine metres above the ground, to ensure local wildlife can cross the entire site on the woodland floor without barriers. Being just above the canopy of the surrounding vegetation, residents and guests have views over the treetops to the Caribbean coast and lagoon beyond from all shared amenities.

Echoing the rich textures and surface complexity within the local Mayan masonry and architectural tradition derived from the repetition and variation of a small number of geometric components, the differing texture and patterning of each building’s facade within Alai is generated by assembling the balcony units and facade elements in varying sequences. This enables elements of relatively few different designs to create a unique facade for each building, yet maintains a cohesive design language throughout. These textured facade and balcony units provide solar shading to the apartments within.