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Flying Down to Mexico
Richard Meier's first projects in Latin America are for W Hotels.
Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners
Views of the W Retreat Kenai on the Riviera Maya.

Richard Meier has been tapped to design two new W hotels in Mexico, with a couple of office towers thrown in. The W Santa Fe is located in Mexico City, part of a complex of three Meier-designed towers. The W Retreat Kenai is the centerpiece of a resort on a pristine beachfront site on the Riviera Maya. Both Starwood projects were co-developed with locals ALHEL and GIM Desarrollos, and are the Pritzker-prize winner’s first projects in Latin America.

The W Santa Fe is part of The Liberty Plaza development that overlooks a nature preserve on the periphery of the city. It will be one of the first LEED certified projects in Mexico City. The entire complex will also include two interconnected office buildings, bridged by a conference center. The towers will be clad in ultra clear glass with a white metal screen on the southern side. “The screen will make the building appear more white, more solid,” said Dukho Yeon, an associate partner with Richard Meier & Partners.

A model of the W Retreat Kenai.

Together the three buildings follow the curved contour of the street, creating a faceted street wall. The north office building is notched out at the top to create a large, inset multi-story porch. W Santa Fe, located in the southernmost building, is highly articulated at street level, with an extended cantilevered entrance portico, and a large conference center suspended over the double height lobby. Outdoor areas overlooking the wildlife refuge are also notched into the building, which will most likely include a VIP bar. “We wanted to create an urban approach to the building, something that relates at street level,” said Guillermo Murcia, an associate at Meier.

The W Kenai is a complex composition of floating planes and meandering paths set in a lush landscape of low mangroves. The project, which includes 180 rooms, a nightclub, fitness center, restaurant, and beach club, is scattered across the site. The various buildings and interconnecting paths will rest on stilts or small manmade islands to preserve water-flow across the marshy site. “We were thinking about the infinite horizon,” Yeon said. “The architectural object punctures the horizon line. There’s a tension between the natural and the manmade.”

Views of the W Sante Fe in Mexico City.

Visitors will enter the hotel after proceeding down a straight path with a linear fountain. A free-form wall beyond the path encloses the conference center and creates a kind of private garden. Through a living wall, visitors will enter the open-air lobby with views out to the pool and the beach beyond. Rooms face the ocean, either straight on or at a 45-degree angle and feature large outdoor porches. “The idea is a kind of floating city,” Murcia said.

The combination of hard, pure architectural geometries with looser, more picturesque landscape paths and features is unusual for Meier. “The site requires something very special,” Duhko said. The firm expects the project to open in 2014.

Alan G. Brake