People geek out about many things like Star Wars, Pokemon, soccer, Batman etc. I do too, but mostly I geek out about hotels, and seeing the work on Mar Adentro in Los Cabos and reading about the establishment is close to perfection for me. The Selectist is invited there to cover the Gala De Danza performance on March 4th 2017, and as we love dance, hotels, architecture and good causes as well, it’s a perfect scenario. And it’s the greatest pleasure to speak to Miguel Angel Aragonés, the architect.
Having spent many of my childhood years in a house co-created between my father and an architect, made to fit into nature. In this case a space with ocean views on the hill of a mountain, designed to capture as most sunlight as possible in the midnight sun summers and dark winters above the arctic circle. I was so excited to speak to Miguel who had nature in mind with this grand establishment, designed to integrate into the surrounding land. These are extracts of our 37 min. chat:
Maiki: I’m a big fan of your work and what you did with Mar Adentro is excellent. Would you tell me how you started with Mar Adentro and the concept.
Miguel: From the beginning when I visited this piece of land, I was fascinated by the line of the horizon, it was clean and pure. People from the cities are always surrounded by light, by images, by noise, and your eyes are looking for something pure, to purify your mind. When I visited the land for the first time I said I needed the water. I needed the water to surround the land. Also what is very important for architecture is to manage the sensation of space. I wanted to make the ocean surround us all the time, and try to put the different buildings emerging from the water.
Maiki: What I love is the sustainability regarding the water. The water that flows around the establishment is transformed into drinking water right?
Miguel: We take all the water from the ocean and it goes to three different platforms that we have and that go to tanks. One which desalinates the water and treats it to be drinkable. All the water that is used for showers, drinking is derived from the ocean.
Maiki: As I told you I am a real hotel geek, and a geek about architecture, and what I see here is close to perfection, I love it. Can you talk about how long it took for you to conceive this establishment?
Miguel: We began this project around 5 or 6 years ago.
Maiki: Wow, and you also worked with a lot of local artisans to make this work right?
Miguel: Yes absolutely. All the workers are a 100% local workers. Here in Mexico the local artisans handle details with the marble, details with the walls… 100% of the hands that we used here were from Los Cabos.
Maiki: Did you have any big obstacles during the construction?
Miguel: Always the main obstacle is the money. Mainly, you have to control all the details. You have to control all the things that you are imagining in a proper budget. The budget is always the “Boss”, it’s a bit sad, but it’s true. We have to make our goals and our ideas, all under the control of the original budget. That was the most difficult obstacle, but you make your goals and costs and you arrive. It’s good when you manage it and finally we made it!
Maiki: Yes, you did extremely well as I see. Let’s talk a little bit about the features of the hotel. Let’s talk about the cocoons you have in the water, the one with the restaurant for example.
Miguel: When we did the first format scetches on the computer, we needed something in this platform of water. The feeling and sensation was a bit desolate, something a little bit sad you know. In the end I thought we need cocoons over the water, and I imagined a huge cocoon. I didn’t know how I would build it, but I said to myself, I need that cocoon over the water. Then we made the first steps to find the material to control the temperature inside, to control the form, many basic things. We started with wood, we started with many different natural elements. In the end we did a try which involved many strips of iron and strips of wood.
Miguel: We created a very resistant structure. It’s amazing what you can do with the strips. I imagined that during the hurricane that they would be flying. But it’s amazing like any part of the project, it was the most resistant element of anything. Because it allows the hurricane to breathe. The wind was blowing inside and the structure allows it to breathe and to go through it. It’s not resisting the wind.
“Nobody can can control that force of nature, it’s something amazing. The last hurricane we had here it was absolutely strong, you can never imagine it. I could never imagine that power of nature.”
Miguel: Nobody can can control that force of nature, it’s something amazing. The last hurricane we had here it was absolutely strong, you can never imagine it. I could never imagine that power of nature. You can be inside the hotel maybe 15-20 meters away from the rain on the outside and the rain went inside from 20 meters away! It was important to consider that power. The hotel can breathe perfectly and let the wind go through. It allows the wind to go through, and its not an opposing force for the hurricane. Once you let it pass, the structure is more resistant to everything. It was an important consideration in the project. The other thing is the water, and for the next hurricane we will do it. We take out half of the water normally, next time we will take out all of it. Because the water will be blowing like a tornado if we don’t.
Maiki: From the conception of the project, what did you want the experience for people visiting this establishment to have?
Miguel: I think the most powerful tool of the architecture is the sensation. The sensation of being part of the space. That perception, when I saw the ocean. Let’s go first and surround the people. First from when you are walking from the street. Here in all the hotels, people come by car, you go inside these huge halls and corridors in a large way. This (Mar Adentro), is totally different. You enter into a small corridor, it’s designed for a person, not for a car. And once you go through this small corridor and open the first door, the ocean appears. The water surrounds you, you are there in the water, the whole platform is filled with water. Imagine that sensation, you will never forget it.
“Going through this corridor, this small door and seeing the ocean, the horizon and nature. You understand it may be subconscious, but you understand the dimension of a person in nature, we are a small piece of everything.”
Maiki: It’s like the light at the end of the tunnel in a way, you pass through this small corridor and you are surrounded by water and this great architecture.
Miguel: The most powerful tools here were that, imagine that even if the hotel is in huge dimensions, but that it will be used by people. The scale was designed for this measure, for people. The human scale, that is the first consideration is the first for every project. Once you forget the human scale, once you take it out, let’s open the universe, the ocean, nature. That contrast was where we understood our dimension in nature. Going through this corridor, this small door and seeing the ocean, the horizon and nature. You understand it may be subconscious, but you understand the dimension of a person in nature, we are a small piece of everything.
Maiki: The people can swim where exactly, you have so much water around.
Miguel: You can go inside the water. The sensation is nice, it’s nice, it’s salt water. We have a pool with another quality of water without salt too, without treatment of chlorine. It’s in the middle of all these platforms. Those are the two options, these two qualities of water.
Maiki: You have quite a minimalistic design, how did you come about your concept.
Miguel: The most important is that is that it was the main aspect of the project. When you are inside of your room, you never see another room. During, night the perception is almost impossible. The depth of the platform disappears. The perception disappears. The depth of the water is totally black and if you see the images you have the sensation that the cubes (hotel structures) are going into a huge depth.
Miguel: In the day the perception is not so strong. If you are in side your room. Two things are important. One, you will never see another room, only walls and the horizon. Preserve the power of the horizon, that line, that is the horizon, all you see from inside your room is walls and water. it was very important that you don’t see anything else but that, you are alone in front of the ocean. You are alone in front of the horizon.
Maiki: What does it feel like for you when you have a conception of this kind of structure and you realise it?
Miguel: The only word that I can say is happy, you feel happiness. Once your idea is real, once the idea takes part in the physical universe, it’s difficult to describe it. For me, maybe that word that i can’t describe or use, but makes me want to be an architect. That sensation it is to dream and to do things. I don’t understand when you see a magazine that renders things that are not real. The real physical things, that motivation to do things that are part of this physical world are maybe the strongest and the most important things in the architectural word. I believe strongly that you have to control your ideas and make it possible. And it’s only possible if you know how the nature works and the human beings work that is where you will execute your ideas. I don’t know if you understand?
Maiki: Miguel, that was one of the most beautiful answers I have heard in my whole life, I don’t even know where to go from there. You explained everything there in your last sentences, about life about humans, about what we build and about what we do.
Miguel: Thank you so much. Really, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Maiki: Thank you it was a pure pleasure!
Photo courtesy of Mar Adentro