A Sense Of Place
Today while walking on the only road in Bahia Soliman, as I do virtually every morning, I stopped and stared at a huge house that has been under construction for at least two years. The gigantic, very tall, concrete building with a small faux bell tower, has a huge advertisement in front of it stating that it is an “investment opportunity” that you can get into for as little as a mere $50,000.00 US money for starters. But what caught my attention today is that amidst the mass of concrete, an actual palazzo at the entrance to this seeming palace, which will eventually (thank goddess) be behind a high wall, there is now a tall, concrete fountain reminiscent of Versailles. I didn’t believe this. The building itself is not even finished. Of course not. But now there is a fountain worthy of Louis XIV. And it stands prominently in the entrance palazzo. Which will probably be finished in marble. This fountain is not depicted on the investment advertisement.
I don’t quite know what to make of this structure and my overwhelming distaste for it. I consider it a monstrosity. Or worse. I have ranted before about some buildings’ inappropriate adoption of Hacienda architecture in this Mayan part of Mexico and the historical significance of all that, true, but this building makes all of those complaints about history and symbolism seem hypercritical. And maybe even unjust. No. This house is the new nadir. This house is the prime example of not fitting. I am not even going to think about whether it might be a misplaced homage to Carlota, Hapsburg Empress of Mexico. I prefer not to speculate about the how that could even transpire.
What ever happened to the idea that a building should actually fit in its environment? Just because the lot size in 20 meters in width is not an invitation to build to 18.5 meters. Just because there is a height restriction is not a reason to build exactly to that height. Just because cement and rebar, sliding doors and channel windows are available is not a reason to use them. Just because you can buy marble for the floors and countertops and brass fixtures and gigantic air conditioners is not a reason to do that. Just because you can build something that is excessive and overcooked and gaudy and gauche is not a reason to do that. And if one does all of that, as I think it happened in this case, the very first casualty, and probably the most important is that the building no longer fits this environment. At all. It becomes an eyesore. It does not fit Mayan Mexico, the jungle, the mangrove, the beach. It does not fit in a country that is not a monarchy. It is a white elephant. I spare you the conjecture about where such construction might belong. And I spare you my hypotheses about the psychopathology that this kind of grandiose, ill fitting, pompous structure evidences.
I note in passing that Bob’s Store, a tiny, new convenience vendor next door to the horrid Palace, has a sign leaning against its wall that says “Colonial Café.” You cannot invent these kinds of ironies.
I am probably preaching to the choir. It’s a sermon I’ve given before. Often. I beg that you forgive my ranting.
I don’t want to dwell on the ugliness. Eventually, if we are all lucky the Palace of Versailles, Bahia Soliman Branch, will be completed and be practically invisible from the beach, and when its gates are closed it will be screened from our further appraisals by a high wall, hopefully with a thick, locked, impermeable Hacienda style gate or barricade.
When I returned from my walk, I immediately noticed the contrast, how brilliantly my house, Nah Yaxche, had been designed to fit right here. I can take no credit for this. None. I didn’t design this house. It was the first house built on Bahia Soliman more than fifteen years ago. It is basically as it was then. It has been slightly updated and improved. But its essence has always been preserved. I just love it and maintain it and admire it. That is what one does with a treasure.
Nah Yaxche’s design is round. In that it echoes on a somewhat larger scale traditional Mayan homes for the past 3 millennia. I yesterday found a 1981 tour guide to the Yucatan (Loraine Carlson, Traveleer Guide, Upland Press, Chicago). In it is an old black and white photo of a traditional Mayan home: round, palapa roof, stone or cement walls, window openings for cross-ventilation. It’s essentially the archetype from which Nah Yaxche sprang.
Another important part of the design of Nah Yaxche is the jungle on all sides of the house. The plants are absolutely critical to its seclusion, its being cool, its being a refuge from the direct heat and sun of the beach, its being quiet. When the wind blows you can hear the sea, and you can also hear the plants and cocos rustling. In other words, you are in Bahia Soliman, not insulated from it. TS Ernesto did not severely damage the plants in front of Nah Yaxche, as Wilma did. In fact, the plants sustained a little salt damage (they were flooded by the sea) and a little wind damage (some cocos' leaves are a bit yellow at the edge), but they are going to be just fine.
Being in this environment and sitting in a house that fits, makes for wonderful relaxation and calm. And oceans of gratitude for this house. I consider Nah Yaxche a refuge. And I am utterly delighted to be able to share this with others who come here.
UPDATE: August 28, 2012 9:40 am: I awoke this morning to a gentle shower. And the thought that many readers may have thought,"Oh, Mi Bloguero, you always exaggerate and expand, and that fountain cannot possibly be as garish as you made it out to be." OK. Have it your way: