Interview with Eduardo Neira, founder of Azulik.
Among the many hospitality concepts that can be found in the beautiful destination of Tulum, there is one that stands out for its unparalleled design, which challenges traditional architectural paradigms. Without neglecting barefoot luxury, the Azulik hotel rediscovers the rustic style and mixes it with the elements of nature, creating a spectacular visual display. But, besides achieving a unique aesthetic – nurtured by an artistic component – this construction is based upon respect for nature. And so, in a display of limitless imagination, Azulik has become the prelude to something even bigger: a new way of thinking that revolves around the challenge of building with conservation as the guiding principle. Azulik Uh May, the upcoming project by the brand, will be undisputable evidence of the success of this innovative model, which combines creativity and improvisation as fundamental tools in the creative process. There is no one better able to tell us about these amazing two projects than the mastermind behind them, Eduardo Neira, better known as Roth.
What is it that inspired the architecture of the Azulik hotel?
This place is inspired by the Maya way of life, which is in harmony with the elements of nature. We could safely say that this is contemporary Mayan architecture. Although the cabins are made in the traditional way (exception made of the walls, as they are glass instead of bahareque), there are other areas such as the restaurant and the dome where we had to improvise. The dome, for example: we wanted to do it in concrete, but the government would not give access permission for the concrete mixer trucks, so we finally came up with a construction that begins with the roof, an innovation that we are replicating in Azulik Uh May. We start with the six circles above and from there we place wood going all the way down, and finally we erect the columns. It sounds crazy, but it was successfully achieved thanks to the creativity of the Maya and our resolve in facing unexpected situations.
What is the Azulik Uh May project all about?
This project aims at becoming livable culture. It will be home to an art school and a museum. There will also be a gallery – twice the size and height of the Azulik hotel – with a small natural lake inside. There will be a housing development, housing for artists and also for collectors, we hope. On the side of the spectrum, we will also build a shopping center with revolutionary fashion brands, art cinema and a theater. There will be three hotels with different concepts: a spa hotel, a wellness hotel and a detox hotel. We will build trails for electric cars. All of this without cutting down one single tree.
Azulik Uh May does not face the sea, but is located 20 km inland, in Francisco Uh May. Its land exceeds 247 acres (100 hectares), and so it privileged in being home for abundant fauna composed of jaguars, toucans and monkeys, and many other species. We really want this to stay the way it is, and for this we must preserve the jungle practically intact. This development will be completely harmonic with nature: vegetation will cover the construction so that it is not visible from the air, so that the birds are also not disturbed. You see, we have to build in a different way.
We already started with my house, which, being very large, has 200 trees inside. Some of them go out through the house, others are all inside. Have there been challenges? Sure. It is, for an example, not desirable to have trees in a kitchen, so there the walls are irregular, since they surround the trunks. Because of the combination of concrete, natural ventilation and trees, interiors are cool and air conditioning is not likely to be required. We come up with new ideas and develop them as we go, but we still owe this to Maya creativity.
Are there any innovations in terms of materials and technologies?
There are. At Azulik Uh May we are erecting structures that challenge the traditional mindset of architects and engineers. If they saw them they would say “no way, this will collapse,” but it does not collapse because it is not concrete. We build with a material similar to ferrocement: we make metallic structures lined in cement. This method arose from the need to solve the problem of concrete mixer trucks, which would destroy trees in their path.
What would you say to developers who destroy the jungle in order to “maximize the profitability” of every inch of land?
That we understand luxury in a different way. Our cabins are the most expensive in Tulum, even if they do not have air conditioning, electric light, showers, minibar or telephone line. However, guests come here to live an experience they would not have anywhere else: to commune with the elements of nature.
You are all welcome in Azulik Uh May, so you can see how construction without cutting trees is a reality. Would everyone in this area build this way, we would all be the more successful, since tourists do not come to live here from afar because of the houses we make. It is a huge contradiction to sell a piece of paradise just to destroy it once they pay for it. Sure, building the way we do is more expensive, but it also sells better. This will be more profitable and at the same time, will help protecting our planet.