In Mexico, a Modern Palapa and Pool Are Carved Into a Rocky Slope

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By Melissa Dalton
This modern take on the traditional palapa is deftly integrated into the natural contours of a rocky site.

A palapa is an open-sided structure with a thatched roof that's commonly found on Mexican beaches. CDM Casas de Mexico reinterpreted this traditional structure to create a striking modern retreat with an airy interior that opens to the outdoors.

The cedar-clad interior provides protection from the sun and orients views towards the ocean.

The cedar-clad interior provides protection from the sun and orients views towards the ocean.

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"In its origin, the program was thought to include the creation of a palapa and a pool," say the architects. "In other words, a roofing structure raised above the ground to protect from sunlight, and a hole in the stone to contain water." 

The firm envisioned the pool as a spot where water floods the stone, "almost in a way of a pond remaining after the turning tides."

The firm envisioned the pool as a spot where water floods the stone, "almost in a way of a pond remaining after the turning tides."

However, they did not want the structure to look as if "it had fallen almost randomly" into place, so they designed the roofline to appear as though it "extrudes from the mountain itself towards the ocean."  

The sand-colored fascia of the roofline integrates the palapa into its environment, as does the stone wall facade, which blends in with the boulders.

The sand-colored fascia of the roofline integrates the palapa into its environment, as does the stone wall facade, which blends in with the boulders.

The architects call the project "a mutable space that transforms into a true viewpoint overlooking the immensity of the horizon during daytime, and an observatory for the stars at night time," as the location is far-removed from artificial light sources.

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Retractable walls allow the interior to fluidly merge with its natural surroundings. Per the architects: "While trying to always maintain the relationship between built and wild, the indoors opens completely to allow the breeze and the red sunset light to inundate the space."

Retractable walls allow the interior to fluidly merge with its natural surroundings. Per the architects: "While trying to always maintain the relationship between built and wild, the indoors opens completely to allow the breeze and the red sunset light to inundate the space."

The interior stonework echoes the exterior, so that it feels as though the structure has been carved from the hillside.

The interior stonework echoes the exterior, so that it feels as though the structure has been carved from the hillside.

The modern palapa nestles into the naturally rocky slope. Vegetation is encouraged to grow over the structure.

The modern palapa nestles into the naturally rocky slope. Vegetation is encouraged to grow over the structure.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Javier Dueñas of CDM Casas de Mexico / @cdm_casasdemexico

Builder: Jorge Chavez

Structural Engineer: GSPI Grupo constructor

Civil Engineer: Jorge Chavez

Landscape Design: Juan Carlos Pérez Trejo

Lighting Design: Artenluz, Javier Ten

Interior Design: Alejandra Plasencia

Cabinetry Design and Installation: Wood n Stone/Carpintery