Nestled on Mexico’s Pacific coast, a new design typology has emerged in NICO Sayulita, a new hospitality experience by interdisciplinary Seattle-based studio HYBRID and Mexico City’s Palma. Together, the design duo has created an architecture that’s truly unique in its ability to bridge nature and comfort, private and public, ancient and modern.
From the street the building seems almost deconstructed, as you first encounter concrete grids that are intermittently covered to create building volumes, and in other locations left open to form outdoor gathering spaces, courtyards, pools, and spas. Between the concrete springs are all manner of local flora, and just beyond one can see the canopy of the jungle that sweeps down to meet the ocean below. NICO is designed to either be rented in its entirety for a large group of friends or family, or it can be rented by suite, so individual groups, couples or travelers can stay together in an effortlessly communal environment.
“NICO combines the autonomy of a vacation rental with the arrangements and common spaces of a boutique hotel,” said Robert Humble, a founding partner of HYBRID. “This allows an extended family or group of friends to rent the entire complex with each guest or couple having their own private suite while providing generous common spaces for group gathering.”
The architects chose a palette that would encourage an overarching sense of calm and tranquility. Smooth concrete structures form the base from which warm woods and steel “imbues a sense of craft and refuge,” added Humble. The five guest suites nevertheless interact dynamically with the abundant nature and vegetation surrounding the site, so the industrial materials enter into conversation with ferns, canopy trees and scrub just outside your floor-to-ceiling window. There is even one suite, called the Jungle Suite, that is entirely encircled by native foliage. It takes advantage of this juxtaposition by offering guests access to a concrete soaking bath for a contemplative experience.
Yet where the private spaces focus on inner peace and meditation, the generous amounts of common space, designed with gathering and celebration in mind, contrast with playful pops of color and varying material palettes. A centerpiece of NICO is a plunge pool from which bathers can take in spectacular views of the ocean beyond as well as the open sky: You can look up through the concrete grid frame that defines the pool courtyard and feel that connection.
The collaboration between HYBIRD and Palma represents the emergence of an exciting new travel experience, where the independence overlaps with convenience. By focusing on a hospitality experience at such a specific, intimate scale, NICO is set to redefine how, and perhaps why, we travel: It offers the best of exploration and natural immersion, yet doesn’t forfeit the tranquility and joy that comes from beautiful and thoughtful design.