Rubén Valdez, Yashar Yektajo Architects, and B-Huber Turn Up the Heat With a Desert-Inspired Resort in Baja California Sur, Mexico
Louis Kahn meets the casbah. Architecturally, that’s the vibe at Paradero Todos Santos, a new 35-room resort property north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: solemn concrete volumes enclosing a 5-acre desert oasis nestled between the rugged Sierra de la Laguna Mountains and the pristine Pacific-coast beach of Las Palmas. With 200-year-old Cardon cacti, thousands of palm trees, and farmland as far as the eye can see, UNESCO has designated the village of Todos Santos a biosphere reserve, one of only two such sites in Baja California Sur.
“We were looking to create a different relationship with nature than at a typical hotel,” begins architect Rubén Valdez, who partnered with local firm Yashar Yektajo Architects on the competition-winning proposal for the project, “to express luxury not necessarily as a material idea, but as an experience.” A pair of two-story wings, containing a single flank of guest rooms separated by curving staircases open to the sky, frame a courtyard garden. There, low concrete pavilions housing an open-air restaurant and the Ojo de Agua Spa are tucked among the towering palms and low-slung desert grasses and cacti.
This rethinking of luxury synchs with the ethos of Paradero Hotels, a fledgling Mexico City–based hospitality company focused on creating community-minded and adventure-centric inns. At the Todos Santos property, Paradero’s first, experiences include surfing, hiking, mountain biking, farming and gardening talks, visits to local artists’ studios, and taco-tasting tours.
Valdez and Yashar Yektajo drew inspiration from the cloisters that Jesuit missionaries from Spain established throughout Baja California in the 17th and 18th centuries. Occupants set up farms in the courtyards of these remote compounds to protect themselves and their crops from animals. For Paradero Todos Santos, the architects turned this historic precedent inside-out, with guest rooms turning their backs to the courtyard gardens toward broad vistas of the rugged landscape. “The Spanish created this typology to protect themselves from nature, but we did the opposite, completely opening to the landscape,” notes Valdez, who splits his time between his studio in Lausanne, Switzerland, and projects around Mexico. “We minimized the building footprint and maximized the gardens,” Yektajo explains. “It’s a compact framework but it feels quite generous.”
Collaborating with Valdez and Yektajo was designer Bibiana Huber, a former classmate of Valdez’s at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and CEO and creative director of Guadalajara-based studio B-Huber. In the project’s early days, the three worked together to figure out the tonality of the poured-in-place concrete that dominates the architecture of Paradero. “We thought it was important that the buildings feel like they emerged from the earth,” Huber states. Adding to the effect are spaces like Ojo de Agua’s garden pavilions, where floors are simply compacted earth—no concrete or tile of any kind. The approach complements the spa’s focus on ancient Mexican healing traditions, such as sound healing and Temazcal ceremonies, and amenities like hot and cold plunge pools.
Not only does the hotel feel firmly rooted in the landscape; being there makes guests feel like they are always outdoors, in nature. The public spaces, including the restaurant, lounge, and spa, are all open to the elements. “The only properly indoor spaces are the guest rooms,” Valdez says. Even then, visitors must exit their sleeping quarters, through a terrace, to reach the bathroom. It’s a detail the design team concedes is not for everyone, though it has its charms. “It pushes you to experience the landscape,” Yektajo suggests. “It’s special in that you don’t see boundaries between inside and outside,” Huber adds. “For us, luxury is not about shiny materials. It’s about being immersed in nature, being totally connected with the stars.”
Her subtle, textured furnishings balance Valdez and Yektajo’s admittedly rustic architecture. “After a day full of experiences off-site, you want to come home to a comfortable place,” Huber says. “Paradero is totally loose—comfortable and chic in a feet-in-the-sand kind of way.” Her firm designed nearly all the hotel’s furniture, textiles, and lamps. Most was handcrafted in Mexico, including woven throws and duvets from Oaxaca, palm rugs and rattan lamps from Jalisco, and lamps from a town near Guadalajara. Their chromatic tones draw from the subtle palette of the surrounding landscape. “Everything is neutral, but with touches of color that echo the greens of the vegetation, the grays of the earth, the colors of the stones and mountains,” Huber continues. “It blends together all the senses.”
Social interaction is highly encouraged at Paradero Todos Santos, as evidenced by elements like the restaurant’s communal dining tables and an abundance of ottomans and loungers at poolside that are meant to be easily rearranged for daytime sunning or nighttime cocktails under the abundant stars. “The experience invites visitors to interact as a community. It feels like a village,” Huber says. “The architecture of the rooms and pavilions surround and embrace the center, which is where the magic happens.” “A lot of resorts are interchangeable,” concludes Valdez. “But this one wouldn’t make sense anywhere else.” The familial environment is as much a spirit of the place as the striking Baja California landscape.
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