Alai by Zaha Hadid Architects


Designed in response to its natural surroundings, Alai marries ecological considerations, engaging design and a reinterpretation of local architectural tradition. Welcoming more international visitors than any region in Latin America, it has become an important centre of business, tourism and transport. The outstanding natural beauty, rich Mayan history and tropical climate of the Yucatan Peninsula continue to attract greater numbers of visitors from around the world every year.

Image © MIR

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. 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.

Image © MIR

The design has significantly reduced its environmental impact by limiting the combined footprint of all residential buildings to less than 7% 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. An onsite botanical nursery will play a vital role in the restoration of species and ecosystems on the site that were disturbed by a previous owner, fostering growth of the site’s biodiversity.

Image © MIR

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. The apartments are organised in four different floor typologies in response to the client brief and integrate generous living areas and bedrooms.

Image © Gross Max

The glazed exterior walls of each apartment open onto large private balconies with unobstructed views to the Caribbean Sea or Nichupté Lagoon, connecting each residence with the surrounding environment and maximising the onshore trade winds of the region for natural ventilation. 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 façade within Alai is generated by assembling the balcony units and façade elements in varying sequences. Source by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Image © Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Location: Mayan Riviera, Mexico
  • Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)
  • Design: Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher
  • Project Director: Juan Ignacio Aranguren
  • Project Associate: Maurizio Meossi
  • Project Architect: Arya Safavi
  • Project Team: Annarita Papeschi, Cristina Capanna, Zetta Kotsioni, Shahd Abdelmoneim, Raquel Arauco, Agata Banaszek, Delfina Bocca, Megan Burke, Afsoon Eshaghi, Michela Falcone, Natasha Gill, Francesca Gulizia, Jinmi Lee, Kate Revyakina, Neil Rigden, Michael Rogers, Mattia Santi, Flavia Santos, Gaganjit Singh, Nicholette Chan, Leonid Krykhtin, Seungho Yeo, Yifan Zhang
  • Concept Design Associate: Paulo Flores
  • Concept Design Team: Maria Tsironi, Megan Burke, Aiste Dzikaraite, Natasha Gill, Andrew Hass, Zetta Kotsioni, Igor Pantic, Sergiu-Radu Pop, Kate Revyakina, Arya Safavi, Mattia Santi, Michal Wojtkiewicz, Bogdan Zaha
  • Associate Local, Architect and Landscape Architects: GVA Arquitectura
  • Integral Landscape Design Concept: Gross Max
  • Environmental Consultants: Q2 Consultor
  • Planning Consultants: Hitech Caribe
  • Project Management: SUDOCC
  • Structural Consultant: BAC – García Jarque Ingenieros
  • MEP: PGI Ingenieros
  • Facade Consultant: Front Inc.
  • Lighting Consultant: Luz y Forma
  • Client: Pulso Inmobiliario
  • Year: 2017
  • Images: MIR, Gross Max, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

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