TULUM, Mexico – In the heart of Tulum, nestled amidst the lush greenery and ancient ruins, stands Casa Caracol—a genuinely unique architectural marvel that seamlessly blends history, culture, and contemporary design. This remarkable residence emerged from an unconventional genesis, born from transforming a replica pyramid resembling the iconic Tulum castle into a living space. From its inception, the Sijil architecture firm, tasked with this awe-inspiring project, aimed to “construct nostalgia with a compelling present.” This aspiration drew upon the rich cultural identity and symbolism entrenched within the pyramid, allowing the design to channel the essence of Mexican heritage.
The outcome is a residence of alluring spaces where materials take center stage, and every element carries a profound meaning.
“We sought to justify every architectural decision with a strong concept rooted in our culture; the design belongs to Mexico, and the fact that we are Mexican,” explained Sijil, an art, design, and architecture workshop led by the visionary Rigoberto Orozco. “The formal choices belong to our heritage,” they emphasized.
The grand impressions begin from the very moment you approach Casa Caracol. The exterior welcomes visitors with stone staircases and platforms. The main entrance, oriented to the northwest, greets guests with a magnificent wooden jaguar, naturally illuminated by a circular window crafted from exposed concrete. The ample width of the opening allows this element to serve as a unique seating area, inviting visitors to recline and enjoy a moment of relaxation or contemplation.
The layout of the main volume comprises a grid of nine bays arranged like a game of tic-tac-toe, creating a perfect symmetry that liberates the interior space, resulting in an open plan where the only dividing walls are the bedroom alcoves situated in the upper corners.
These evocative images continue throughout the living spaces. The living room, for instance, draws inspiration from a feathered serpent entwined in stone. The steps represent its tongue, all elegantly composed within a simple geometric arrangement. The space is adorned with a large-format artwork signed by Rigoberto Orozco, inspired by the sky of Sian Ka’an, stretching above the Great Maya Reef.
It is evident that the project aligns with the workshop’s philosophy, rooted in a belief “in the profound value of materiality and the narrative spirit conveyed through objects and places.”
At the heart of the residence stands a concrete sculpture by Orozco, designed as a void (the negative space), employing Cha’ac Mo’ol imagery, effectively serving as the centerpiece for the dining area, complemented by columns supporting the weight of the space.
Interior elements such as lighting fixtures and chairs contribute a sense of lightness to the composition, playing with contrasts.
The kitchen is clad in steel, intentionally showcasing its imperfections rather than concealing them. A wooden plank serves as the breakfast table, with the spotlight on the exquisite tableware, a creation of architect and artist Luciano Matus.
Beneath the pyramid’s staircase lies a wine cellar constructed from metal rods, a gravel floor, and an assortment of the owner’s collections.
The bedrooms boast simple stone finishes, with floors deliberately detached from the walls to respect the primary structure. The master bedroom features a monolithic onyx bathtub and a sauna. On the other hand, the guest bedroom includes a plunge pool within a Spanish-style courtyard. Additionally, each resting space features an outdoor bathroom and shower.
While the form of Casa Caracol, with its pyramid-like shape, commands attention for its distinctiveness, strength, and symbolism, its constitution reveals a subtler but equally astonishing aspect. The residence is best experienced through interaction with its materials, distinctive lighting, and the shadows that landscaping cast upon the stone. This is a house devoid of acrylic paints or plastics; it was crafted by hand, and that artisanal touch is palpable.
Casa Caracol is a living testament to the potential of architecture to transcend time and tradition while celebrating the rich tapestry of Mexican culture. It stands as a reminder that a dwelling can be more than just a shelter; it can be a work of art that connects the present with the profound heritage of the past.