Sometimes it just takes a bit of imagination to look past all the negatives in a dilapidated structure and see the potential in its bones. Even if there’s not much left but the original walls, these historic elements are loaded with character and help root new constructions in the past and culture of a particular setting. Xolotl House, a breezy renovation in the city of Mérida, Mexico, shows how even a series of crumbling walls can become the seeds for a brand new home — one reborn as a tropical dream getaway complete with a glittering turquoise pool that “floods” part of the house.
When Mexican architecture firm Punto Arquitectónico first saw the property, it was in rough condition. The jagged stacked stone walls were beautiful but needed to be patched and reshaped in some areas. Instead of putting a new roof over the entire structure, the architects came up with a novel floorpan that would enclose two bedrooms with private bathrooms, the kitchen, and the living areas while leaving a spacious terrace only partially protected from the brilliant Yucatán sun.
The swimming pool weaves in between the walls and new concrete columns that stretch up to support the overhang of the roof, flowing through doorways to create several private oases. In one of these spaces, a hammock stretches above the water for lazy lounging. In another, a sheet of falling water offers entrance to a roofless circular volume, which, the architects explain, is a reference to traditional cisterns.
Punto Arquitectónico thinks of the interior segments, which are enveloped within the 100-square-meter (1076-square-foot) footprint of the original house, as three “bays.” The first contains the foyer, which was designed as a transitional space between the street outside and the tranquil residence within, as well as one of the bedrooms and its integrated bathroom. The second is the social area, which pulls together the living room, dining room, and kitchen within a fluid open space. This bay leads seamlessly into the third, which consists of the terrace, pool, and a master suite at the rear of the property.
These indoor/outdoor spaces provide some separation between the two bedroom areas for privacy and further distance the master suite from the world outside. The rear volume is an entirely new construction, gazing out onto the terrace, the pool, and the cistern through two oversized doorways. While the home’s plot and walls are arranged on a grid, the pool is more organically shaped, adding a dynamic visual element to the layout.
“The third bay of the property was the more intervened one,” explain the architects. “The poor condition of the original slab was replaced with a light one, which contrasted with its materiality concept. Sheltering the terrace, the concrete slab, the structure of it passes tangent to the existing walls without touching them.”
From the street, the home looks as ordinary as any other. Its unremarkable facade provides no hint of the dreamy refuge sheltered just beyond the front windows, making it feel all the more special and unique.