Mahekal Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, gives guests everything they would expect from a luxury beach vacation. However, the resort was previously something that guests would probably never expect—two separately owned properties.
Dallas-based architecture firm three worked with owner/developer group Circa Capital to marry the two adjacent resorts under a unified Mahekal brand, applying strategic planning and creative design principles. InspireDesign caught up with Gary Koerner, design principal, about how he unified the two distinct spaces into one, while overcoming challenges and incorporating both his and the client’s inspirations into the project:
What inspired you throughout the design process? At three, our primary source of inspiration is always our client, and the experience that they want for their guests. Feelings are real and important, and our goal is to produce architecture that creates emotional connections. For Mahekal, our client envisioned an unmatched experience at a beachside resort for 21st-century travelers in a setting that would live up to its name. (Mahekal means ‘magical.’) We drew inspiration from the location itself, immersed in the Mexican jungle, yet urban in its context close to the great bars and restaurants of Playa del Carmen. We sought to make the property somewhat Bohemian in its aesthetics, and because we were working to unify two previously unrelated adjacent properties, we also took some inspiration from the existing bungalows. Ultimately, our design approach focused on removing the appearance of boundaries, so that guests would feel the enjoyment of discovery while experiencing the jungle units, garden and beach areas of the property. The landscape scheme for this property became another key element to unifying the two properties, masterfully executed by Talley Associates.
How did you unify two distinct properties? What were some challenges? Our strategy focused on introducing new amenities, including a spa, fitness center and new bars. New pools were very important to this part of the strategy because they could be designed and placed in ways that obscured old boundaries between the two previously separated properties. We also redesigned the arrival area, adding lush vegetation, strategically implementing landscaping elements and opening up sight lines to heighten the arrival experience with gradually expanding vistas. Updates to food and beverage service components were also essential to presenting a unified experience—some received upgrades and renovations, while a whole new beach dining venue was created.
What opportunities did this project present in marrying the two spaces? Mahekal means ‘magical’ and this project presented an opportunity to create magic—a four-star resort from the bones of two- and three-star venues. We were able to unite two unrelated, adjacent properties into one beautiful, cohesive, elevated experience, transporting guests into a world of wonder and tropical relaxation. For our client, Mahekal represented an opportunity to position the resort to attract younger visitors and establish brand loyalty for a sustainable future, while maintaining the charm that longtime guests still return for.