Hotel Terrestre wins Wallpaper* Design Award 2022

Hotel Terrestre peeks out of the rich foliage of Mexico’s Puerto Escondido, earthy, strong, almost elemental, and at the same time otherworldly. The building, although newly opened, appears to belong to the land, like it’s always been there. It’s just as its architect, Mexico City-based Alberto Kalach, intended: ‘The constructions […]

Hotel Terrestre peeks out of the rich foliage of Mexico’s Puerto Escondido, earthy, strong, almost elemental, and at the same time otherworldly. The building, although newly opened, appears to belong to the land, like it’s always been there. It’s just as its architect, Mexico City-based Alberto Kalach, intended: ‘The constructions are tucked into the landscape, as if they were there for hundreds of years. A certain ancient but also futuristic feeling characterises the architecture. One hundred per cent solar-powered, and low-energy consumption, it plays with the sun and the wind.’ 

Commissioned for Mexican boutique hospitality developer Grupo Habita, the hotel is tucked into the landscape of this idyllic west coast resort region, sharing a beach with neighbours such as artist Bosco Sodi’s Casa Wabi by Tadao Ando, and Federico Rivera Rio’s Hotel Escondido. All overlook the Pacific Ocean and Oaxaca’s mesmerising green-blue mountains, uniting 360-degree vistas of sea, jungle and sierra. 

A dive pool in one of the 14 suites of Hotel Terrestre, each overlooking the garden, with the Pacific Ocean in the foreground

Indeed, when Grupo Habita’s co-founder, Carlos Couturier, first imagined his new outpost in this rich part of Mexico, it was this balance of the natural and the somewhat mystical that he had in mind – his thought process also explains the hotel name’s. ‘Terrestre is not a hotel. It is a journey. Conceived based on the principle of how “aliens” would imagine life of humans (terrestres) on the planet,’ he says. ‘We, as humans, are obsessed with life in other galaxies, in faraway satellites or planets. But, how weird are we (terrestres) through the eyes of aliens? The Earth and nature are our most valued assets as human beings. ‘Terrestre is a share of this paradise called Earth. Our goal is to preserve and enhance our land. To rethink wellness.’ 

Existing venues by the same group include Mexico City’s Habita, designed by Enrique Norten and Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta, Habita MTY in Monterrey (Best new hotel in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2010) with interiors by Joseph Dirand Architecture, and The Robey in Chicago, designed by Belgian collaborators Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors. Kalach’s other project for Grupo Habita, also in the area, the restaurant Kakurega Omakase, scooped the Best Hideaway gong at the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2021. All the locations demonstrate the same ambition and sensitivity, while placing the visitor experience and a considered take on luxury at the heart of each scheme. 

 

A suite at Hotel Terrestre, featuring a pair of ’Ruiseñor’ (Mockingbird) chairs in tzalam wood and cotton, designed by Oscar Hagerman and manufactured by Canto Artesanos

Kalach is dedicated to crafting buildings that are in tune with nature and follow principles of sustainable architecture. His past works, such as the arch-defined Casona Sforza in the same region, and a private home in Valle de Bravo (W* May 2020), showcase this well, employing natural materials and minimising energy consumption. He designed Terrestre in the same spirit, using a range of eco strategies. There’s passive cooling, solar panels and locally sourced materials, and the whole is engulfed in native planting, such as copales, burseras (palo mulato), mesquites, thevetia, tabebuias, lantanas, and a variety of bromeliads and orchids. An ecosystem of birds and butterflies makes its home there, fluttering between the structure’s textured, sandy brick walls and tropical macuil hardwood shutters. 

Terrestre features 14 rooms, which are situated in low, independent bungalow villas, each of which has a private sand and flower garden, an open-air shower, a generous bedroom and a rooftop with a pool and panoramic views. All are the same, placed in a row, ensuring all guests have an equal, top-quality experience. Two circular bathing pools in the grounds are enclosed within tall walls and not only offer an opportunity for a secluded dip, but also act as a stargazing spot at night and add another important dimension to the complex. ‘Water is the other element that runs through the garden, creating ponds, cascading showers, swimming pools and a mystic spa,’ Kalach explains. The all-day, 40-seat, open-air restaurant within the complex, also named Terrestre, is run by chefs Pamela Maudy and Geoffrey Antonino, who reinterpret the tradition of Mexican herbalism and provide a contemporary twist to local delicacies. Specialities include milpa soup (made with chepil, with corn and pumpkin flower), and plantain molotes with cheese from Istmo. A wellness centre, a library, a towering brick outdoor shower folly, and a beach bar called Lunático complete the offerings on site. 

Alberto Kalach’s design for the folly at Hotel Terrestre, which bears a resemblance to his chimney tower for the nearby Casa Wabi art foundation

The interiors, done in collaboration with design studio RB + K, are just as carefully considered as the architecture. They feature custom works by Mexican architect and designer Oscar Hagerman – a collaboration that marks a first for Grupo Habita. The pieces, which span from tweaks on Hagerman’s iconic ‘Ruiseñor’ chairs to several entirely new, bespoke elements, were selected for their timeless quality and references to rural Mexican furniture design. They were also all built locally, in Mexico (this attitude around locality extends to bath amenities and cooking ingredients too). ‘Terrestre is a mix of novelty and purity,’ concludes Couturier. ‘[It is] made for humans, to enjoy the luxuries of Earth.’ And this spot in the Mexican jungle, nestled next to nature, art and respectful architecture, really feels like the ideal place to do so. §

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