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Arkilätt: Enlightened architecture in Mérida

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Veronica Garibayhttp://yucatanmagazine.com
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

On a recent afternoon, on Calle 74, Architect Mariana Martín walked me through the kitchen belonging to Shedar Cárdenas, a Mexican chef from Veracruz. We then entered the backyard, into Casa Avelard’s future dining space.

The backyard of Casa Avelard, which will soon be the space for Shedar’s new business venture. Photo: Yucatán at Home

“Shedar’s intention was to open up a Mexican restaurant,” Mariana explains, “but the pandemic changed everything. It will now be a private dining experience, and the second floor will be Chef Shedar’s loft.”

Design of the facade of Casa Avelard. Project: Arkilätt

The design and construction in the Santiago home are being carried out by Arkilätt, an architectural firm based in Mérida, Yucatán, made up of Mariana Martín, Edgar Solís, and Jorge Osalde. 

“We have been friends since college,” says Mariana. “We supported each other for about four years, collaborating and recommending one another. But it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that we formalized Arkilätt and truly started creating together.”

They now work designing, remodeling, and building, mainly for residential projects. Although each of them specializes in a different area of architecture, they all share a love for lighting design.

Bedroom in Casa Oliva, a project by Arkilätt. Photo: Pedro Castro

“We’re always keen to pay close attention to light, whether that be the main aspect of the project or not,” Mariana continues “We adapt to whatever the client needs, whether it’s to come up with a general concept, create technical drawings, or overlook the construction. But we really appreciate it when a client encourages us to create freely. With Casa Avelard that was certainly the case. Shedar trusted us to bring her vision to life — a contemporary Mexican space inspired by Talavera, with our own individual style.”

Floor tiles inspired by Mexican Talavera. Photo: Arkilätt

Aside from lighting, Arkilätt places an important emphasis on color, and they enjoy designing around what is already there. 

Their challenge at Casa Avelard was to create a space full of color and light which could serve both for Shedar’s upcoming business venture as well as a comfortable living space. 

“Güera”, Shedar’s dog, in what will be her master bedroom. Photo: Yucatán at Home

“Considering this is also going to be a commercial space, the food and the dishes have to show off. Illumination was something we had to think about from an aesthetic perspective as well as a pragmatic one. Light has been front and center all along.”

Word of mouth

Mariana says most of their work comes from referrals. During the time Arkilätt has been in business, they have slowly moved their way through downtown Mérida with different remodeling and restoration projects, such as Casa Oliva, finished in 2020.

“There’s something very valuable in someone else trusting your work enough to recommend you to friends. We’re slowly adding touches of our style to the Centro.”

It is this word-of-mouth approach that eventually brought them to Casa Avelard.

Casa Avelard’s facade, still under construction. Photo: Arkilätt

Most of the second floor was created from scratch. Shedar’s bedroom, bathroom, and rooftop are new. The rest of the home was remodeled from the original structure.

Kitchen of Casa Avelard’s second floor, where Shedar’s loft will be. Design: Arkilätt

Mariana herself lives in Mérida’s Centro, which has been a powerful influence in her work. She knows firsthand the care which keeping pasta floors requires, the challenges of double-height ceilings, and all about caring for old facades. 

Hexagonal starry tiles, in one of Casa Avelard’s bathrooms. Photo: Yucatán at Home

“These are my favorite details in a Mérida home. Mosaics, for example, have to be made by hand, which creates differences and imperfections. But that’s precisely what people want, that honest beauty,” Mariana said. “We want our projects to have that same personal touch, to feel local, yet stylish with a unique interpretation.”

Get to know more about Arkilätt and their projects on social media.

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