Colonia Donceles 28, located very close to the so-called Foundation Zone of Cancun, is a social housing neighborhood developed by INFONAVIT in the early 1980s. At that time, the neighborhood was near the access to the hotel zone because it was designed to accommodate people who would work there. As the city grew, the urban sprawl gradually absorbed the neighborhood, which eventually ended up in a privileged position. Today, Colonia Donceles is located next to one of the areas with the greatest capital gain in the city (Puerto Cancún), near Puerto Juárez and with access to main communication routes that connects it with the entire city while at the same time preserving its nature and origins.
It is in this context, three mixed-use buildings that belong to a series of housing interventions that began almost six years ago within the neighbourhood, emerge. These housing interventions not only seek to increase the housing density, but also to use land in danger of deterioration that has raised red flags in the neighbourhood. At the same time, these new constructions have an impact on the surrounding public space, recovering it with lighting, resurfacing work, new vegetation, tidiness and cleanliness.
Main Project Objectives
The initial approach of the project arises from the intention of having three buildings, one of them under construction right now, connected to the public space on the ground floor through public premises. These premises may include commercial shops, but the very dynamics of the neighborhood and the people who live there have led to the development of several different lines of business. Cafes, restaurants, photography studios, beauty salons, architecture and artist studios are only a few examples of what has been developed in these ground floors. After resolving the link between the building and the public space, three housing typologies were proposed, distributed on three levels in the three buildings proposed. On the building’s roof, there are two terraces and a pool facing south. These terraces, facing the neighbor golf course “steal” the view and become a way of recovering something that the city has denied the neighborhood.
Approach to the Plot
With few exceptions, the plots in Colonia Donceles are rectangular: 5.90 metres wide by 15 metres long; that is, 88 square metres. This intervention comprises four plots of land, which are located around a square that was used as a parking lot. Today, this informal parking lot has become a place where people can spend quality time and where the ground-floor commercial premises can expand, since the orientation of the building provides shade from the western sun.
Architectural Program Definition
As for the interior program of the buildings, in addition to the ground-floor commercial premises, there are three types of housing: double height studios (35 m2) that can function as an apartment or as studios for young entrepreneurs, single-space housing (42 m2) for single people or couples, and rooms for short-term rental (15 m2). These types of housing units are aimed at a sector of the population that rarely has options for owning property.
Construction Considerations (Materials)
For factors related to the subsoil under the building, all the ground floor is made out of concrete. The structural elements above the ground floor are concrete girders that transfer the load to a crown of concrete beams which receives the entire load of the buildings. In the upper floors, load-bearing walls made of vibro-compacted cement blocks with a putty and paint interior finish were used. As in other projects, the compression layer with a tie-beam and vaulting system was slightly increased, so that it could be grinded, sanded, polished and shined, thus becoming the floor’s final finish. The structural elements define the spaces, and the closing systems use glass for the balconies and wood for the doors. Concrete, block, wood, marble, and glass are the predominant materials on the inside and outside of the building.
Sustainability, Bioclimatic, and Energy Efficiency Considerations
The short sides of the plot face south and north, leaving the longer façades exposed to the east and west. This unfavorable orientation of the apartments is used to provide ventilation and lighting through balconies with vertical projections at the ends. All rooms are naturally ventilated and lit and benefit from cross ventilation. As in other projects, all three buildings have no direct gas consumption; everything works electrically, and the system is reinforced with solar cells placed on the building’s last slab.
Investing money and constructing buildings, per se, does not make a city, and we believe the future of our urban centers lies in understanding the balance between reconnecting the social fabric by recovering public spaces, attending to new housing needs, and tying the public to the private, achieving all of this through more efficient construction with better spatial quality. From our perspective, these bases can serve to replicate similar actions, leading to more projects with a social nature that do make a city and are first connected to the streets and their residents before concerns for regulations, market studies, and construction trends.
Kiltro Polaris Architecture is a practice founded in 2016 by Arch. Victor Ebergenyi Kelly (National Autonomous University of Mexico, 2008) with base in Cancún, Mexico. In 2011 he graduated from the Master in Collective Housing at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and then moved to Vaduz, Liechtenstein to collaborate with Baumschlager & Eberle Architekten. In 2013 become part of INFONAVIT (Institute of National Housing Fund for Workers) coordinating projects and proposals for the improvement of social housing in Mexico and teaching in different universities as an assistant professor in Mexico and Spain.
Today, Kiltro Polaris Architecture is an office that works on the solution of urban and housing problems (from social housing to residential) through pragmatic, simple and constructively coherent proposals which include a continuous search for spatial quality, recognizing in the architecture that is built, the perfect tool to trigger improvements in the environments we inhabit.
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