Ludwig Godefroy's Hotel Casa TO is a concrete oasis enclosed by sky
by Sunena V MajuSep 15, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Sep 19, 2022
Balancing the rich traditions rooted in indigenous culture and the globalised trends of modernity, the city of Oaxaca has upheld an identity that welcomes the new while retaining the old. Therefore, any new architectural additions to the city would have to complement the past, present and future. Responding to that and following Mexico’s profound attention towards contextual architecture, Mexico-based architecture firm RootStudio has designed Hotel Flavia. The boutique hotel near the natural reserve of the Sierra Norte mountain ranges, takes shape in the careful amalgamation of modern architecture and vernacular landscape design.
Nestled near the slopes of San Felipe Mountain, the hotel rests on the site as a brutalist icon. While the three sides of the building are adorned with minimal openings, design is encouraged to look inwards. The southeastern side generously opens into the views and serenity of the natural surroundings. Adapting itself to the natural slope of the terrain, the structure, influenced by brutalist architecture, appears to be embedded into the site. One approaches the hotel from the highest point on the slope with the functions unveiling in descending order. Though the first appearance of the hotel is a solid exposed concrete facade, on entering, the spaces slowly unfold into a progression of artistic courtyards, gardens with indigenous flora and a panoramic deck overlooking the serene hills of Oaxaca. Without any opening on the front facade that peaks into the interiors, the experiences inside the hotel unwrap as a surprise to the visitors.
In an attempt to shape a building that would become “a kaleidoscope of emotions, stories, and sensations”, Mexican architect, João Boto Cæiro carefully creates a balance between an architecture that responds to the surroundings and a landscape that would enhance it. Drawing inspiration from the modernism of Mexican architecture in the 19th century, the hotel design presents many similarities to its precedents in the industry. The material selection that revolves around concrete, timber, and glass, is a common spectacle in the hospitality architecture of indigenous localities. However, the identity of Hotel Flavia takes a step forward from the current through its unique integration of nature into design. The landscape unravels as the essence of the design by being simple yet artistic, familiar yet unique, a part of it yet separate and an identity yet an addition.
Designed by Mexican artist Luis Zárate, the landscape of the hotel remains a botanical art. Renowned for his work on Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden, Zárate reflected on his perception of emphasising the indigenous plants such as cacti, pochote trees, pitayas, and aquatic plants by making them a part of the architectural whole. Between the metallic art incorporated in the courtyard design, sculptural additions on the gardens and the curated selection of flora, the unbuilt spaces become a strong sensorial and functional support for the built environment.
With 11 rooms, a restaurant and a panoramic pool, the hotel hosts spaces following the conventional norms of hospitality design. “It was developed in accordance with the rhythms of an organic and sculptural planning method. Boto Cæiro shaped the building in such a manner that it maintained the specific characteristics of the land surface and alternating the spaces, proportions, light and shadow with the endemic vegetation and raw materials such as concrete, timber, and glass,” shares the hotel in an official statement.
Presented in a colour palette around five earth hues, the interior design harmonises with tropical timber and concrete architecture. Identifying each room with unique characteristics, the architects have aimed to create a sensory impression in each. The underground room, which is well illuminated is contrastingly named 'Bunker'. Both 'Nubes' and 'Copal' rooms also feature a unique play of light with the latter dominated by picture windows. Adding to it, the hotel states, "The Teatro room, as its name suggests, emphasises the dramatic character of a space that invites introspection, while Kundavi, Biblioteca, Cuarto de Máquinas, and Xolo embrace the warmth of woods as a leading element. Finally, in Roja, Selva, and Kuni rooms, the contrast between textures is the principal theme.” Imparting the hotel’s luxurious identity, adorned in a collection of antique decorative pieces and contemporary furniture, the interiors embrace luxury in the selective curation of products.
Exploring the rich craftsmanship of the context, the local artisans created the furnishings, bringing an aesthetic feeling to the different spaces of the interiors. Alongside the local artisans are guest talents such as Sabino Guisu, Adán Paredes, Dali Nieto, Jesús Cuevas, Rolando Rojas, Francisco López Monterrosa, and Lucio Santiago. Defining the design inception of the project, the hotel shares, "A precise ratio between the natural surroundings, the volumes, and the spaces were the guidelines that defined the design of the boutique hotel Flavia, whose atmosphere evokes sensations and stories inspired by all the wealth of Oaxaca."
With the widespread growth of the hospitality industry in accordance with the tourism bubble, lesser-known places and indigenous areas are being placed on the pedestal of attention. As a reaction to this trend, these places are experiencing the inflow of not just a new group of people but new cultures, expressions and practices. While this interaction and exposure of small localities with the global population results in many exciting developments, it also slowly brings adaptations of many long-standing systems. Being associated with both sides of the change, hospitality architecture exhibits the initial nodes of this gradual change. Therefore, architecture seems to have a responsibility to balance new thoughts with vernacular principles. But the question is, even when we are aware of it, are we responding the right way? Is architecture helping the intermedial translation of indigenous places or is it transforming them?
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