U K'UX KAJ
02 / 2020
Tulum is on the cutting edge of boutique hospitality and resort design. Max's design entry for the 2020 Roth Azulik Design Competition is a fine example of how that edge can produce a sublime and unique experience for the occupant.
U K'ux Kaj is K'iché Maya for "heart of sky" the god of wind. My initial geographical study of the Tulum area (and a personal familiarity - I've been to Tulum many many times) shows that the prevailing winds in the area are predominately out of the East. I found this to be a huge resource in an area that could benefit from natural cooling. U K'ux Kaj reaches above the tree canopy of the Tulum jungle and scoops the wind through itself to promote cooling and human comfort. The section drawing illustrates the Eastern orientation of the house and how the roofs are organized to channel the natural wind through the house.
I am aware that your design request stated that ideas were preferred over technical possibility, however, in my process as a designer and architect, I generally work on ideas along with technical possibility. To that end, the main challenge of this design competition was how to get the house up into the tree canopy. Structural Bamboo seemed to be the most responsible type of material to use and so I devised a system of stacked structural bamboo poles that act as a laminate beam would. The layers of bamboo lengths create a beautiful rhythm reminiscent of the layered wood bands in concrete already existing at Roth Azulik. The staggered lengths of bamboo pole layers create a corbel effect and the various lengths are determined by structural bending stresses but also the variety of lengths develope a delightful rhythm within the structure itself. This rhythm is further echoed in the floor and wall patterns through U K'ux Kaj as seen in the attached images.
The house is accessed by gondola. The central pool is one of the most dynamic features. It is placed exactly where the structure is strongest and employs the use of marine aquarium glass. The pool catches some of the roof rain and allows it to overflow the pool's infinity edge for a waterfall to the lagoon below. The hot tub is in the middle of the pool and can be accessed by invisible 'floating' stepping stones if one does not wish to swim to the warmer waters. Decks surround all interior spaces and a sense of openness dominates the plan of U K'ux Kaj.