If one were to ask Mexican architect Miguel Angel Aragonés if there is a common thread within his work, he would likely respond with the same poetic quality that infuses it: “There’s a simplicity of materials, a simplicity of ideas, a simplicity of principles,” he says.
From his earliest small-scale, government-supported housing projects to his vision for the home of Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, all of the spaces that Aragonés has created are characterized by rigor and restraint. And his latest project, Mar Adentro—a hotel-andresidential complex in San José del Cabo, Mexico—further serves as an expression of his refined-yet-rarefied spatial point of view. Aragonés not only designed the three-phase project, but he also purchased the land, developed the property, and now operates it. The complex includes a mix of 51 residences, 194 hotel rooms, and six restaurants, as well as yoga studios, a private cinema, and saltwater pools.
Like a theater focused on the ocean view
The overriding inspiration for the design of Mar Adentro was its context—eight acres of land along the coast of the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur. “The most powerful thing you can do as an architect is create atmosphere,” says Aragonés, who, when seeing the property for the first time, was struck by the utter minimalism of the landscape—the clean horizon line of the sea melding into the surrounding desert devoid of shadows beneath the blazing sun. “I imagined a place that was like a theater, and all of the spectators would be completely focused on the scenario—the scenario of the ocean.”
To manifest this vision, Aragonés devised a scheme based on three expansive platforms of water that surround a series of white cubic structures. The volumes seemingly float upon the liquid horizon line. “The effect is the sensation of being surrounded by the sea,” he says. Introspectively angled toward central stepped plazas of pooled water, the cubelike volumes are defined with white plastered concrete walls on three sides. The walls are punctuated with modern variations of traditional celocías, which are small screened openings that allow light to filter in while still preserving privacy. On the sea-facing sides, the structures are clad with floor-to-ceiling glass, allowing occupants to view the endless expanse of water before them.
The platforms and clean-lined fachadas ceigas (blind facades) reflect the common practice among Mexican architects to “pay homage to the wall,” says Aragonés. “It gives you structure, it gives you privacy, it gives you the sensation of a more powerful, protective space, and it gives you intimacy in a very Mexican way.” The eff ect also creates shadows, which Aragonés envisions to be “like an image by the painter Giorgio de Chirico.”
Amid all the hard lines and strict geometry of the architecture, Aragonés says a counterpoint was needed. Curving concrete pathways on the water lead to the counterpoint: an organic nestlike, breathable structure of sticks covering a restaurant and lounge area that completes the composition. Inside the residences and hotel rooms, the streamlined simplicity continues within minimalist interiors fitted out completely with finishes, furnishings, fixtures, and fittings custom-fabricated to Aragonés’s specifications by Poliform. Based on a module that expands or contracts to create units of diff erent sizes, all of the components— including doors, kitchens, wardrobes, bathrooms, sinks, furniture, tables, and beds—were prefabricated in Italy, shipped to Mexico, and assembled on site.
Modern comforts and amazing views
Atop Mexican travertine floors, the furnishings and finishes bring sleek creature comforts to the rooms while allowing for unobstructed views. Even the discreet LED ceiling lighting, which can be adjusted to change color to alter the mood, and the custom scrim shades that seal off the interiors without blocking sight lines or air flow, were tailored to contribute to the overall eff ect. “This approach allowed us to create high-quality interiors at reasonable cost and to build eff iciently, with everything you need to feel good,” says Aragonés.
The Mar Adentro dining options—all of which are outdoors, open, and yet intimate—off er variations of local Mexican food. The final two of the six restaurants will open this December, and both will off er organic food.
Overall, it was the pure landscape of desert meets sea that inspired Aragonés and his architecture. In turn, Aragonés hopes the locale will inspire both residents and visitors. He says, “The universe had created a desert joined to the sea along a horizontal line. It is the purest, most minimalist landscape.”
who Architect: Miguel Angel Aragonés. Project team: Miguel Ángel Aragonés; Juan Vidaña; José Torres; Pedro Amador; Rafael Aragonés; Alba Ortega; Jose Torres; Jorge Flores. Consultants: Jose Nolasco; Garza Maldonado; High Tech Services. Lighting: ilumileds. Engineering: Jose Nolasco. Kitchen: San-Son.
what Lighting: ilumileds; Artemide. Hardware: Hafele. Door: Poliform. Architectural glass/glazing: Herreh Javier Rivero. Seating: Exteta; Poliform; Movigar; Kristalia; Colico; Magis. Upholstery: Sunbrella. Tables: Poliform; Kristalia. Storage systems: Poliform. Plumbing fixtures/ fittings: Hansgrohe. Textile treatments/finishes: Sunbrella.