In the Land of Mexican Architect Luis Barragán, a Contemporary Casa With Historical References is a Tribute to the Light & Sky of Yucatan
In the state of Yucatan, in a small village outside its colonial-style capital city of Mérida, Casa Sisal is one such work. An homage to its historical and regional roots, the contemporary building’s striking white façade lends forceful clarity to its clean lines and emerald-green expanse featuring royal palms, water lily reflecting ponds, and a pool as seemingly edgeless as the sky.
The architecturally honored Casa Sisal is, in many ways, a product of its anthropology. It is tucked away on the property of a historic hacienda that, like many similar in the Yucatan, celebrates its origin as a producer of henequén (sisal). Enclosed by the hacienda’s original 10-foot walls, the 2,000-square-foot Casa Sisal remains a world all its own, constructed of hardwoods, limestone and plaster polished to a sleek finish by the ancient Mayan technique chukum—all design decisions made by local architect Salvador Reyes Rios.
“We knew Salvador had a contemporary leaning, as we do, so when we saw preliminary sketches, we knew Casa Sisal’s modern aesthetic would be a wonderful architectural addition to the hacienda,” says the owner, who, prior to building the home, had traveled extensively throughout Mexico and therefore was sympathetic to and understanding of its historical renovations.
“We always knew we would someday have a home in Mexico, but always envisioned the Pacific coast or colonial interior,” she continues. “The Yucatan became the pure, isolated, uncomplicated Mexico that we remembered from travels 30 years ago. The combination of the historic and the modern satisfies our aesthetics perfectly.”
Placed at the far end of a drying field for maximum privacy, and with a north/south orientation that makes the most of cross ventilation, Casa Sisal was “designed to bring the outside in,” says the owner, noting the space’s 10-foot ceiling and doors, dramatic lighting and open-air space. Highlights of the interior include Mexican textiles selected to complement a spate of architect-designed built-ins—a sunken living area, platform bed bases, wardrobes and desks—and a unique painting by Gail Tarantino that tells a story in a special language.
From inside Casa Sisal a near-constant communion with nature exists. “One is surrounded by tropical lushness and architectural simplicity that sometimes you find yourself just sitting taking it all in,” the owner shares, referencing the sound of birdsong and village children at play in the distance. “The glass doors all disappear within the walls creating open space, with fresh air flowing through, and the sky and trees are reflected in the surrounding ponds and pool outside.”
The blurring of lines between interior and exterior means a seamless transition—and luminous backdrop—between realms and activities. At dusk, the owner describes the drying field “as if thousands of lights are floating above the lawn as fireflies welcome the gradual darkness.” Designed to experience the beauty of the Yucatan light and sky, she adds, “Casa Sisal is a respite from it all.”
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Photographs: Courtesy of Boutiquehomes