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Thursday, January 26, 2023

La Casa en el Árbol — A playground for grown-ups

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Veronica Garibay
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.

Over 50 years ago, the idea of a treehouse was born inside the mind of a woman from Yaxkukul. She had spent her childhood climbing trees and branches in an old masonry house. As time went by, only the landscape she loved remained.

Years later, she took on the task of transforming the property into a home that highlights the trees she has known for all of her life.

"Casa del Árbol" from inside terrace.
“Casa en el Árbol” from inside the terrace. Photo: Tamara Uribe

“La Casa en el Árbol” — house in a tree — sits at the heart of Yaxkukul, a municipality in the interior of Yucatán. It is a retreat house for the owner, whose family lived for many years on those very grounds. The project draws inspiration from a solar, a traditional country Maya house.

The project was entrusted to Laar, an architectural firm based in Mérida. Their goal, to highlight the trees already present on the site.

Section A of “La Casa en el Árbol.” Project: Laar Design and Architecture

“When she told us what she wanted, the first thing we thought of was a playhouse, for her grandchildren or something like that,” says Diego, one half of Laar. “But as we delved deeper, we understood what she expected from the space.”

“We realized that it was not a playhouse, but a retreat, a place where she could enjoy nature and be herself. The challenge was to take the idea of a treehouse and transform it into a contemporary and livable home.”

Patio and stairs leading up to second floor.
Patio and stairs leading up to second floor. Photo: Diego Lizama

At ground level, an open-plan layout welcomes the guests. 

The blue patio is reminiscent of the home’s original floor tiling and is enclosed by the remains of the old walls. From there, stairs lead us to the top of the trees, where we arrive at yet another terrace, where treetops offer ample shade. 

The second floor in “La Casa en el Árbol.” Photo: Tamara Uribe

The architects were particularly mindful in allowing for airflow in both open and enclosed areas. The heart of the second floor is a Maya walnut tree, whose canopy towers over the solar. 

A peak inside the home. Photo: Tamara Uribe

“Simply put, inspiration came from the trees,” says Diego. “We understood that we were working for nature. Once we got to know the place, the trees, the location and the environment we started visualizing new possibilities.”

Master bedroom in “La Casa en el Árbol.” Photo: Tamara Uribe

The project design phase lasted about six months, from the moment they met the owner to the submission of the final draft. Construction went on for roughly two years.

Street view of “La Casa en el Árbol.” Photo: Carlos Quintal

Today, the home stands as one of Laar’s most recognized projects.

Diego says that even though the home is private property, it has become part of the community’s identity.

“The residents of Yaxkukul were so intrigued when we began building this unique project,” he remembers.

“So many people stop to peek in and take a look. La Casa en el Arbol has become a local landmark.”

The project has slowly merged in with its surroundings, allowing nature to recover and for the house to fully integrate with the space.

“Homes age just like we do, and the treehouse is aging beautifully, on par with nature,” says Diego. “It has slowly been wrapped by plants, and the trees are healthy and splendid again. It’s amazing to see how it gradually became part of the natural landscape.”

Hammock hanging across the terrace. Photo: Diego Lizama

Laar thinks of this project as a testament to the value of pursuing one’s dream.

“We see it as a great representation of our philosophy, too. Good things take time, but we should never discard the dreams we keep. Some day, when the time is right, you will be able to achieve that which you desire, even though it may take 50 years.”

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