Zaha Hadid Architects ‘Reinterprets Local Mayan Heritage’ With This Luxe Design

Alai Mexico Pool Night ©
Alai Mexico Pool Night ©
Photo of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor18 May 2017

Zaha Hadid Architects’ new Alai residential buildings embrace the natural Mayan landscape while pushing the boundaries of design.

Alai Mexico Communal Space | ©

The Alai apartments by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) blends the rich history of Mayan architectural roots with contemporary design on the edge of the Nichupté Lagoon. Resembling futuristic watchtowers, the Alai apartments’ design “marries ecological considerations, engaging design and a reinterpretation of local architectural tradition,” says the firm’s release.

Alai Mexico Pool Night | ©

Part of this local tradition includes the use of repeating geometric components on the building’s exterior, as well as differing textures and patterns. This design allowed for a “unique facade for each building,” while still maintaining “a cohesive design language throughout.” The integrated perforations of the facades allow for natural light to touch the natural vegetation on the ground, while the wellness amenities are situated on a raised platform to allow native wildlife to freely roam on the woodland floor.

Alai Mexico Mangrove | ©GrossMax

The balcony units provide a platform for unobstructed view of the Caribbean sea, as well as provide solar shading for the interior dwellings. Guided by eco-conscious and sustainable principles, the design “has significantly reduced its environmental impact by limiting the combined footprint of all residential buildings to less than 7 percent of the site’s total area,” says the release. Most of the vegetation on the site will be restored to its original state through an replanting program led by landscape architects Gross Max.

Alai Mexico Kayaks | ©

The high number of tourists flocking to the Mayan Riviera – as well as a nearly doubling of the residential population over the last decade – placed an added importance to the sustainable efforts of the Alai construction. With an aim to preserve the wild beauty of the wetland area, the firm wanted the design to accommodate “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.”

The design also includes an onsite botanical nursery and the creation of a woodland nature reserve.

Alai Mexico Pool Day | ©ZHA

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