Dezeen Magazine

Cancun apartment

Cancún apartment building is designed for workers and tourists to coexist

Split-level bedrooms and natural finishes characterise this apartment complex in Cancún, Mexico, by Kiltro Polaris, WEWI, and JC Arquitectura.

The 14-unit project, dubbed Domus Peepem, is located in Colonia Donceles, a neighbourhood of Cancún that was developed in the 1980s as social housing for the many workers employed in the area's tourism industry.

Mexico apartment block
The project has 14 units

"After Hurricane Wilma (2005) it suffered considerable damage, which led to the abandonment of many homes and detonated a high degree of urban and social decline," said Kiltro Polaris, a firm with offices in Cancún and Mexico City.

The project was completed in partnership with two other Mexican architecture studios, WEWI and JC Arquitectura.

Apartment by Kiltro Polaris, WEWI and JC Arquitectura
Kiltro Polaris, WEWI and JC Arquitectura designed the apartment block

Although the project cannot be considered social housing under Mexican regulations, the architects' goal was to promote a certain socioeconomic range for the unit's occupants, in contrast to the existing model which separates workers and visitors.

"Domus Peepem was conceived as a residence where 14 inhabitants can coexist alongside visitors to the commercial premises. Today, the building is inhabited by diverse types of people: couples without children, young professionals, people starting a new stage in their lives, and tourists who rent through digital platforms," said the team.

Mezzanine in apartment
On the third floor, the units have taller ceilings, with mezzanines above the living spaces

"Not only do the neighborhood residents mingle with new inhabitants, but also foreign travelers are now included, generating a new dynamic and connections in the neighborhood," they added.

Domus Peepem is comprised of two narrow buildings separated by a communal green space. Each of the buildings contains commercial units on the ground floor, six one-bedroom apartments, and a rooftop penthouse with a pool.

apartment with concrete and wood
The walls and floors of interior are polished concrete. Photo by Fabian Martinez

The apartments have a compact layout that separates the kitchen, living and dining area from the sleeping area with a tall step. Each unit has a balcony overlooking the plaza, which adds a sense of security to the plaza, claimed the architects.

"Regardless of their size, they are dignified and well-lit, with natural ventilation and a sense of spaciousness," said the architects.

White kitchen
Small kitchens feature in the compact apartments. Photo by Fabian Martinez

On the third floor, the units have taller ceilings, with mezzanines above the living spaces. The penthouse level has a smaller apartment with direct access to the swimming pool.

"From there, the context surrounding the building unfolds through vistas of the neighborhood, the sea, a neighboring golf course, and the rooftops of other homes," said the architects

Kiltro Polaris and its partners sought to create an efficient construction process that would avoid any unnecessary costs. For example, the design foregoes paint in favour of a plaster-like material that was used to seal the concrete walls.

"Inside, the block walls were plastered with putty that was polished and brightened with wax, so that no paint was needed," the architects explained.

Apartment interior
Rougher materials contrast with tropical wood. Photo by Oscar Hernández

Kiltro Polaris' team selectively contrasted these rougher materials with tropical wood species for interior finishing and furniture, stone accents in the bathrooms, and plenty of greenery within communal areas, staircases, and the building's many balconies.

Other apartment buildings in Mexico include an affordable housing development in Mexico City by NYC-based firm SO-IL and a building on Mexico's Yucatán peninsula that is fronted by perforated blocks.

The photography is by César Béjar, unless otherwise indicated.

Project credits:

Design: Kiltro Polaris (Victor Ebergenyi Kelly); WEWI (Paloma Flores, Patricio Manzo); JC Arquitectura (Juan Carral O'Gorman)
Collaborators: O’Gorman & Hagerman Abogados, Grupo MCMG
Kiltro Polaris team: Jorge Viñas, Yissel Alanis Nolasco, Valentina Bellego, Gerardo Pacheco
Construction: JCKP Arquitectura

More images and plans

Site plan
Site plan
Ground floor plan
Ground floor plan
First floor plan
First floor plan