Completed in 2018 by architect Ludwig Godefroy, Casa Mérida is a striking single-family residence in the historical center of Mérida, the culturally rich capital of Yucatán. This unique project masterfully fuses contemporary design with traditional architecture, honoring the city’s unique tropicalized colonial style and addressing its challenging weather conditions.
Godefroy’s design seeks to revive Mérida’s vernacular architectural heritage by skillfully employing natural cross ventilation to adapt to the region’s extreme heat and humidity. Furthermore, the project incorporates sustainable practices and local materials to minimize dependence on modern technologies. Casa Mérida, a celebration of Yucatán identity, blurs the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces, creating a harmonious living environment that merges urban dwelling with a verdant oasis, ultimately forging a deeper connection to its cultural roots.
Casa Mérida Technical Information
- Architects: Ludwig Godefroy Architecture
- Location: Mérida , Yucatán, México
- Topics: Concrete, Mexican Houses
- Area: 250 m2
- Project Year: 2018
- Photographs: © Rory Gardiner
The purpose of this house is to make disappear our urban daily references from México city, where we live behind our large glass window apartments, to foment an outdoor life, in which the house is breaking the basic concept of the facade; the house does not enclose people, it stays open and breathes permanently, while providing the essential feeling of protection and privacy. Casa Mérida is inverting the classical scheme of the house with its garden, to create a singular habitable garden with its house.– Ludwig Godefroy
Casa Mérida Photographs
Text by the Architects
Casa Mérida is a single-family house project located in the historical center of Mérida, a few blocks away from its main central square, in its colonial area. Mérida is the capital of Yucatán, but also the capital of the Mayan culture, Yucatán representing a large part of the Mexican Mayan territory.
Although this civilization disappeared a long time before the Spanish arrived, Mayan people and languages always survived and still exist today, which always made this region unique and different from any other in México, a sort of small country within the country, with its way of thinking.
Another critical point is the fact that Mérida has very peculiar warm weather all year long, with
intense temperatures, a peak that can reach 40º Celsius in May, and a very high humidity level, especially during the rainy season from June until the end of September.
Through centuries, this weather led the city’s architecture to a recognizable traditional typology, a mix of its colonization history with its Mexican tropical reality from Yucatán, resulting in a singular tropicalized colonial style. This typology is basically based on natural crossed ventilation under high ceiling volumes, all connected together by a series of patios letting the airflow through the entire house, providing a natural cooling system. For many centuries it has been the way of building. It shaped a certain image of Mérida until air conditioning appeared and made any architecture possible around the old historic center since the absolute need for crossed ventilation could now be balanced. Mérida is a city where life without AC is almost impossible, and it has become usual to use 24 hours a day. How can we step back from this intense use of AC Mérida is doing today? And what could be the possibilities architecture is offering us?
With this goal in mind and having a look at the past came the following question :
How can building an architecture that reflects and considers the yucatán identity to make this house belong to its territory? In other words, how could this house be Mayan?
Casa Mérida project explores the relationship between contemporary and traditional architecture, both
connected through a very simple use of vernacular references.
When entering for the first time on site, something memorable was the unique proportion of the plot, which is a broken rectangle of 80 meters long x 8 meters wide, looking like a big lane.
Here came the one and only idea of the project: to preserve this 80 meters perspective as a straight line,
crossing the entire plot from the entrance door until the ending point, where the swimming pool is located, Inserting back the traditional air flow cooling concept as a starting point. But it was not only about the air circulation. This long perspective also refers to the Mayan antic culture and architecture, and more precisely to its Mayan « Sacbé,» literally the white path, stone covered with white limestone stuc. Those straight lines used to connect all together the different elements, temples, plazas, pyramids, and cenotes (natural sinkholes, full of clear water, used for sacrifice and offers to the gods ) of a Mayan city; sacred ways which could even go from one site to another along a few hundred kilometers.
By using the perspective, this very simple classical architecture artifact as a central element and main idea, the project got immediately structured along this line, converted then into a long concrete wall guide, a sort of axis visually organizing the house, as well as all the movements, since it’s also working as the main circulation hallway.
In the second stage of the project development, it naturally and literally appeared as a vertebral column; therefore, it became the main structural concrete element to carry all the rooftop slabs. With its airflow column, Casa Mérida went back to an original and elemental principle of the vernacular Yucatec architecture, the natural crossed ventilation, which then brought the project to a second question :
How is it possible to reach the best autosuffisance in the middle of a city, without being so dependent of
modern technologies, to try to be more responsible with the energy waste management of the place?
This next concern took the project towards disconnecting the house from the city to get better control of it, creating a sort of isolated countryside situation in the middle of an urban context. To Physically disconnect in the historical center of Mérida, traditionally, houses are connected with the street, with the social area between the sidewalk and the inner patio, behind which the private spaces take place, and a backyard at the end. The logic is gradually organized from public to private, and a functional area in the back.
To physically disconnect Casa Mérida from the city, the layout has been modified by switching the social area with the backyard area, sending the living room, kitchen, and swimming pool to the end of the land. Furthermore, the quietest area where the noise of the street doesn’t reach you anymore; to bring the functional backyard to the front, use it as a buffer with the city.
To Typologically disconnect
In addition to the permutation between front and back, the general layout of the house is also organized
according to a regular rhythm of a positive built area and a negative empty area to always generate empty spaces on both sides of the built spaces, making the gardens participate instead of only being juxtaposed with ornamental ones.
The outdoor spaces are integrated as part of the inner space, vanishing the classical border between in and out, increasing the visual depth to create a more generous amplitude sensation of the volumes. The purpose of this house is to make disappear our daily urban references from México city, where we live behind our large glass window apartments, to foment an outdoor life, in which the house breaks the basic concept of the facade; the house does not enclose people, it stays open and breathes permanently while providing the essential feeling of protection and privacy.
Casa Mérida is inverting the classical scheme of the house with its garden to create a singular habitable
garden with its house.
To Energically disconnect
To conclude, after sensitively isolating the house, came the last obvious point of disconnecting the
house, energetically speaking, from the city. After resolving the cooling system as the first major energy consumption issue, inspired by the architecture of the past, encouraging the most reasonable use of AC, the second point to consider was the water. According to the fact Yucatán is a region full of water in the subsoil, drilling a borehole to get clear water from deep down was the most logical solution. However, to complete an entire cycle of water regeneration, the rainwater had to go back to this subsoil, and absorption wells were designed to fulfill this function, placed under sculptural water collectors, which became part of the aesthetic of the house.
The wasted water system also got disconnected from the one of the city, using a biodigester to treat the dirty water and generate water for the garden. The entire cycle from pumping to regenerating without letting the city control our wasted water was now completed. The last point was the electricity, resolved by using obvious but proper technologies, such as solar boilers to warm the water, as well as solar panels to cover the rest of the needs in electricity.
To Culturally reconnect
The project is willing to get rid of the unnecessary, with no finishing and no decoration, only to preserve the structural part, as well as only simple materials. Mayan cream stone walls have been built traditionally by covering the joints with stone splinters, typical stone from Yucatán used in antic Mayan pyramids and temple sites. Brut concrete has also been used for the floors and the walls, definitely industrial but still locally produced in Mérida, the main structural material.
Finally, massive wooden louver windows and doors have been designed to control the light atmosphere. The construction is reaching 90% made on site, with local materials, and built exclusively by Yucatec masons and carpenters, a sort of modern reinterpretation of what could mean vernacular architecture.
Made of massive materials which do not require special treatments or maintenance, accepting aging and time as part of the architecture process, the house has been conceptualized to end up one day covered by a new coat of materiality: a layer of patina.
Casa Mérida Plans
Casa Mérida Image Gallery
About Ludwig Godefroy
Ludwig Godefroy is a French architect known for his work in Mexico. He gained recognition for his unique architectural style, which often combines traditional elements with contemporary design principles. Bold geometric forms, strong connections to nature, and local materials and craftsmanship integration characterize Godefroy’s creations. His projects often exhibit a harmonious blend of cultural influences, paying homage to both his European roots and the rich architectural history of Mexico.
Works from Ludwig Godefroy