A play of arches: Villa Petricor is a contemporary take on Mexican architecture

Designed by CO-LAB Design Office, Villa Petricor crafts a sinuous journey through nature and built forms in homage to its context.

by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Nov 01, 2022

Tulum, the Mexican city often referred to as the ‘City of Dawn’ has constantly imbibed glimpses of traditional and ancient influences in its culture and construction. Merging the values of vernacular architecture with contemporary construction possibilities, the city on a bluff facing the Caribbean Sea has given the world some of the most intriguing, thoughtful and nature-centric structures. Tulum the city, Mayan culture, and stone architecture is a combination that has repeatedly appeared in the cultural and architectural context of Mexico. Therefore, the architecture where nature and materiality are in a continued conversation now appears to widely be associated with Tulum’s identity. Following the history, Villa Petricor by CO-LAB Design Office sits amid lush greenery in carefully carved-out segments.

  • In the serenity of Tulum, CO-LAB Design Office designs a residence to nestle in the lap of nature | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    In the serenity of Tulum, CO-LAB Design Office designs a residence to nestle in the lap of nature Image: César Béjar
  • Inspired by petrichor, Villa Petricor connects to the natural world to create refreshing atmospheres for relaxing and refreshing | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    Inspired by petrichor, Villa Petricor connects to the natural world to create refreshing atmospheres for relaxing and refreshing Image: César Béjar
  • The residence is planned to protect several existing tree clusters in the site | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The residence is planned to protect several existing tree clusters in the site Image: César Béjar

Building on the cues of contextual architecture, the villa nestles in a site covered with trees. The design intervention, therefore, integrates the built structure and the natural landscape to harmoniously take shape, respecting the presence of each other on the site. Directing the potential of the site into its architecture, the natural elements become a driving force in the planning process. The orientation of the villa is influenced by the quality of light, views and wind flow, and proposes to passively cool the house with a reduced energy footprint. A stone boundary wall with a trellis-like pattern introduces the villa to a visitor. Extending the architects’ approach to make the land part of the design, the stones for the boundary wall have been procured from the land excavated for the pool. The voids on the stone blocks adopt an arch shape, nodding to the significance of arches in architecture. Following the boundary wall that overlaps and takes a 90-degree turn, the visitors encounter their first glimpse of the main structure. In the design of the villa with a rectilinear form approached by an open front yard and a turquoise pool, the volume of the openings in the front facade primarily draws emphasis on the arch character of the design.

  • The three-bedroom house with arched openings creates fluid transitions between interior and exterior spaces | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The three-bedroom house with arched openings creates fluid transitions between interior and exterior spaces Image: César Béjar
  • A tropical garden surrounds the house creating privacy while providing a lush backdrop for all rooms | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    A tropical garden surrounds the house creating privacy while providing a lush backdrop for all rooms Image: César Béjar

While creating a balance between Mexican architecture and contemporary architecture, the arches occupy an integral role in Villa Petricor. Throughout the different spaces, arches of varied sizes, scales and shapes come together to impart a spatial quality to the whole built structure. In the exterior that engages in a continuous dialogue with the surrounding natural landscape, the solid-void interactions of the design ensure this relation is reflected in the interior spaces as well. While the arches primarily address this intent, the material palette and skylights become interesting elements that add to it.

  • The arch language has been continued at all levels of designing including furniture design | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The arch language has been continued at all levels of designing including furniture design Image: César Béjar
  • The scale of the arches are proportioned to the space and garden areas | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The scale of the arches are proportional to the space and garden areas Image: César Béjar
  • Skylights bring natural light and ventilation to all interior spaces and extend the presence of nature through light and shadow play | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    Skylights bring natural light and ventilation to all interior spaces and extend the presence of nature through light and shadow play Image: César Béjar

In a 300 sq.m area, the villa hosts three bedrooms and other functional spaces across two floors. The Mexican architects created fluid transitions between indoors and outdoors in the floor layout through generous openings that invite nature inside. On the ground floor which hosts a living room, pivoted windows connect the pool and tropical garden to the indoors. The pool design acts as a medium to seamlessly blend man-made structures into the natural vegetation. The presence of arches moves from the walls to the ceiling in the master bedroom. Along with its cascading floor levels that merge the master suite, the bedroom, lounge and terrace into a single space, the room adorns a continuous vaulted arch ceiling. “The arched forms create a continuous surface for sunlight to render the polished cement interior, revealing the perfectly imperfect handwork of local artisans,” share the architects. Furthermore, four skylights bring natural light and ventilation to all interior spaces of the villa. Marrying the architecture to its nature, the landscape design occupies a tropical garden that surrounds the house, creating privacy while providing a lush backdrop for all rooms.

  • The arched forms create a continuous surface for sunlight to render the polished cement interior | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The arched forms create a continuous surface for sunlight to render the polished cement interior Image: César Béjar
  • The several 90-degree turns create a sense of surprise as one moves through the house | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The several 90-degree turns create a sense of surprise as one moves through the house Image: César Béjar
  • The finishes were carefully pigmented to create a serene and calming interior | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The finishes were carefully pigmented to create a serene and calming interior Image: César Béjar

With minimal intervention in the planning layout, the transition between functional areas through narrow circulation passages creates a unique spatial experience. Imparting a sense of moving through a dense patch of shrubbery, these transitional spaces add drama to the “sculpted monolithic interiors”. Following the concept of minimal design, the interior design is also proposed without any decorative details or additional elements. The architecture of Villa Petricor is crafted from polished cement walls and terrazzo floors to realise a contemporary interpretation of the relation between nature and architecture. Uplifting the design character to compliment the architecture is the furniture design by the architects. Bespoke and mostly built-in, the furniture is designed in wood and stone. “The dining table with its massive fluted support leg was cast directly on site,”mentions CO-LAB. The material palette also features Mexican marble for kitchen tops, table tops and bathrooms, and terrazzo with black gravel for the flooring. Adding to the customised detailing of the interiors are the CO-LAB-designed concrete light features and wooden chairs.

  • Mexican marble is used on the dining table top, kitchen countertops and in the bathrooms | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    Mexican marble is used on the dining table top, kitchen countertops and in the bathrooms Image: César Béjar
  • The interior design is also kept minimal without any decorative details or additional elements | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    The interior design is also kept minimal without any decorative details or additional elements Image: César Béjar
  • Designed by the architecture studio, soft earth-toned fabrics complement bespoke furnishings and decorations | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
    Designed by the architecture studio, soft earth-toned fabrics complement bespoke furnishings and decorations Image: César Béjar

Elaborating on the concept of the project, the architects narrate, “Petricor (petrichor), the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil, evokes a renewal of nature through its quiet and powerful ways for the seeds of life to prevail. Inspired by this, Villa Petricor connects to the natural world to create refreshing atmospheres for relaxing and refreshing after a day at the beach in the developing town of Tulum, Mexico.” Within the minimal design of the villa, the architects encompass an identity, through a play of solids and voids and a colour palette complimenting the surrounding environment.

Villa Petricor: Floor plan | Villa Petricor | CO-LAB Design Office | STIRworld
Villa Petricor: Floor plan Image: Courtesy of CO-LAB Design Office

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