Project of the Week: Chablé Sea of Cortez
Imagery courtesy of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos.
This spectacular Project of the Week is a five-star Mexican site which is designed to integrate into the landscape of the Baja California Sur peninsula.
Mexican ultra-luxury spa and resort chain Chablé Hotels is bringing a premium property to La Paz, in the form of Chablé Sea of Cortez.
The firm tasked compatriot design studio Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos (SMA) with the architecture and interiors of this 16,000 sq m site.
SMA’s brief was to bring this hotel concept to the desert landscape of Baja California Sur, in a beachfront property just north of La Paz in northern Mexico. Vast biological reserves make it an important destination for eco-tourism and its proximity to the United States has accelerated development in recent years.
Ocean view challenge
Across a 64,912 sq m estate, the area contains a pristine beach set between two hills that overlook the Gulf of California. Chablé wanted an ocean view for each of the specified 50 units, which posed a design challenge.
The SMA concept’s starting point was to deliver a sense of place and to smoothly integrate the resort into the gentle slope of the desert landscape. The solution involved placing half of the room units on each hill to ensure uninterrupted views to the ocean.
Accommodation categories comprise 120-sq m standard rooms, 409-sq m double villas, and a 500-sq m royal villa. Alongside these, the resort will include a spa and other amenities like restaurants, an event space, a boutique, wellness villas, and branded residences.
The design sited the lobby and beachside amenities in the valley a short distance from the beach, while the back-of-house facilities near a main road leading south to La Paz, and the spa halfway between the beach and main road as an inward-looking structure.
The resort’s concept is based on a branching system, with each branch forming a central access path that runs parallel to the hill’s slope with rooms sitting at a 23-degree angle to it. Angles between branches are designed to be open enough so that any room has an uninterrupted visual connection with the Sea of Cortez.
Even though direct views to the ocean were provided, there were still peripheral views of other rooms, which broke the sense of privacy and isolation within nature that Chablé sought for this hotel. In order to create the sense that there were no interruptions within the landscape, SMA devised a gently undulating surface which would integrate every room into a single folding gesture and gradually separate from and re-join with the landscape.
The initial proposal for realising this form was for a double curvature laminated timber shell that would invert to generate the undulations required. However, the ultimate alternative solution involved individual concrete shells, built and joined by a frontal pergola structure that defines the undulating border curve.
Infill has been used to generate the majority of the surface. The level at which each room is set is calculated to cut out the amount of earth required for this infill. Finally, a gradual shift occurs between natural vegetation cover and stone and gravel cover as the landscape climbs higher over each shell.
SMA’s architectural director, Fernando Sordo Madaleno de Haro, commented: “The formal solution of the building is consistent with the design philosophy we have on generating integrated systems, where the components of the project respond fluidly and are structured most simply.
“In Chablé Sea of Cortez, a single constructive element is expressed as a large organic roof that forms oscillations along the volumetry, being roof, wall and access road at the same time.”
Interior design for the accommodations encompasses a pool and deck, with the roof surface rising overhead to allow entry. Guests will be able to see a back garden from the moment they enter the room.
The rest of the project continues the theme of gentle unfolding. The lobby volumes smoothly rise to cover a drop-off point and open up towards the ocean. The beachside area combines a rocky, natural materiality with curvature that leans into the sea. The spa is inspired by winding journeys through soft interiors that define coherent experiences.
The project was first announced in 2019 with completion slated for 2022, but this has since been revised to Q1 2024.
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