Local materials and traditions for RED Arquitectos’ Casa Numa

RED Arquitectos,

JAG Studio, Miguel Calanchini,

Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico,

holiday houses,


Mexican studio RED Arquitectos, founded by Susana López González, built a holiday home on the island of Holbox off the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula using ecologically friendly local coconut palm wood.

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Local materials and traditions for RED Arquitectos’ Casa Numa 
How to build a home in a prestigious natural setting such as the beautiful Holbox Island off the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, in Quintana Roo state? Originally colonised by the Maya, the island is only 42 kilometres long and two kilometres wide, but its small size is packed with wonderful holiday destinations. There are no cars on Holbox Island; people get around by bicycle or golf cart.
Building in such a location, already compromised by intensive construction, clearly takes special care, and so architect Susana López González and her team at RED Arquitectos opted for construction solutions minimising the home’s impact on the environment. 
The house is built mainly out of coconut palm wood, a material that is naturally abundant in the area but is rarely used for housing, making Casa Numa a virtuous model for its environmental impact and aesthetic value.
The house on two levels totalling 160 square metres stands on a base of wooden pilings made from the island’s zapote trees: a tall, highly ornamental evergreen that grows to heights of 15 to 45 metres and is best known for its fruit. The wood of this tree is also used to make the outdoor staircase connecting the ground floor, containing the dining room, bathroom and master bedroom, as well as a patio and swimming pool, with two more bedrooms, a bathroom and a terrace on the first floor.
The rest of the home is built of coconut palm wood from the mainland, which provides the vertical strips of the home’s cladding. This screen serves as a sunbreak to attenuate the hot Mexican sun by day and creates a lantern-like play of light at night.
RED Arquitectos’ use of wood offers additional benefits: the material’s thermal inertia improves the indoor climate, and it speeds up construction time compared to classic building materials. Casa Numa was built in only three months, plus another month to complete the interiors, which stand out for the use of sustainable decorating methods such as an ancient Mayan stucco technique called chukum, used in place of paint. Chukum is named after its key ingredient, the resin of the chukum tree, an endemic species in the Mexican region of Yucatan, blended with white sand aggregate. The resin makes the material water-repellent, ideal for a seaside home, while giving it a warm, rosy colour without use of artificial colorants.
RED Arquitectos’ Casa Numa skilfully combines a contemporary style with local materials and traditions to create a sustainable holiday home.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: RED Arquitectos
Location: Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Year: 2021
Images: JAG Studio, Miguel Calanchini


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