June | July | 2017
When Salvador Reyes Ríos first saw Hacienda Petac, there was no immediate inspiration for what would eventually become the property’s impressive post-restoration design. After all, for Ríos, the initial concept for a historic property doesn’t necessarily stem from its surroundings, but rather its rich history. “In a restoration project, an interior design concept should come out from the research of the old building in terms of history, local culture, and resources, as well as materials used for the construction and finishes of the original building,” says Ríos, whose firm, Reyes Ríos + Larraín Studio of Architecture and Design, has established the gold standard for colonial remodeling and hacienda restoration in Mexico. “The idea is to make a recreation of the new from the old.”
Built from the remains of a former Mayan settlement, Hacienda Petac sits on approximately 250 acres in the Maya countryside just outside the colonial city of Mérida, Yucatán. It’s a region rich with history and culture, which would ultimately influence Ríos’s design of the resort. “We wanted the aesthetics of the property to pay homage to the architecture of the old sisal haciendas of the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth centuries of Mexico and the Yucatán,” says Ríos. “We are always looking to give a sense of belonging to any project we’re involved in. It applies equally to the restoration or the new buildings we design from scratch. To achieve it, we must study the site and the existing buildings as they will provide the clues to understand the ‘spirit of a place,’ a meaning that is fundamental for us.”
But for Ríos and his team, getting started was not always easy. Although the property was in poor condition, he could see the potential in restoring it back to its original splendor. One of the first projects to tackle was transforming some of the high-ceiling spaces into luxury facilities such as the former sisal storage space and the machinery room into guest rooms and a large game room. “The old buildings were carefully restored by local masons and handcrafters, using old techniques in order to preserve its unique original patina,” says Ríos. “Moorish-style arches in the main facade blend in with modern accents such as long ski lights and ponds.”
In the current ballroom, the team was able to preserve the patina of the original stucco on the old stone walls and the man-made patina, too. Ríos and his team preserved the graffiti that appeared when the property was abandoned, and then framed it with a wooden strip. Design elements like this serve as special, unexpected surprises for resort guests.
In keeping with the historic restoration, Ríos utilized lime-based paint to reproduce bright hues typical of the colonial epoch of the Yucatáan. He used ochre yellow, ochre red, and light blue for the facades of the buildings and throughout the interiors, as well. This palette, coupled with complementary natural materials such as local limestone and the stucco of the chukum, a natural resin that you can get from the bark of an endemic tree, is a nod to an old Mayan technique and creates a luxurious yet wholly fitting aesthetic for the Hacienda. “We believe that natural and organic materials are always naturally connected with us,” explains Ríos. “When you combine natural and organic materials with a simple design language and composition, you can assure elegance and a warm ambience.”
“We created them along long axes for circulation that points to windows that frame the views of the natural forest,” says Ríos. That coupling of the natural setting is apparent also in the materials used in the project. About 80 percent of the materials used were local and about 60 percent of them were natural and organic. “You can see them everywhere,” says Ríos. “A special mention belongs to the stucco of chukum, that we used basically for wet areas and spaces such pools and bathtubs, bathrooms, and the spa.”
In the end, Hacienda Petac transformed into a resort that is a fine example of how history can be restored without ever overshadowing it. “Hacienda Petac was designed following the Mexican Nobel Prize [winner], writer Octavio Paz’s quote,” says Ríos. “‘Reality is not on what we see but in what we discover.’”
Alan Merriman PREC ACP
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