March, 2017

A perfect balance of luxurious and modest, The Papaya Playa Project in Riviera Maya, opens up its newest addition—the Treehouse. Designer Emilio Heredia takes us through his design journey for the beachfront property.

With its pristine white sand beaches, stunning natural beauty and clear azure waters, Riviera Maya has been a popular destination for travellers all over the world. Along a 900-metre stretch of paradise spread out along the Caribbean coastline of Tulum, one can discover one of the most naturally beautiful and luxurious resorts in the area. The Papaya Playa Project, originally completed in December 2011, houses 85 casitas and cabanas and has mostly recently developed a new extension — The Treehouse. Built keeping ecological design and sustainability in mind, Emilio Heredia along with Design Hotels, has created the space for creative, like-minded individuals to unwind

amidst nature. “The idea was to create a space where people could share the experience of simplicity they experience on arriving to a relatively untouched and primitive island — the feeling of desire diminishes and is soon replaced by the power of nature”, says Heredia. The project is a barefoot luxury camp, built with ecologically sustainable materials like palapa (thatched) roofing, wood/plaster composite walls and bamboo window coverings. “We used ‘palapas’ which is traditional roofing made from palm trees. ‘Chukum’, a tree racine, has been used in our observatories just like in the Chichen-Itzá (a world famous complex of Mayan ruins found on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula). We’ve also used local stones in our

walls to preserve the natural coolness of the room — this is an age old Mayan technique”, elaborates Heredia. The accommodations all have a rustic feel celebrating the union of luxury and simplicity. The interiors are basic using fresh colours, the highest quality sheets, and thoughtful details making for a comfortable stay.

The property has accommodation to suit every need and budget — from Rustic Casitas, oceanfront New Casitas furnished with large terraces and roof decks, to stylish beach houses Casa Madera and Casa Palapa. The highlight of these properties is the private porch with a hammock, an element that is perfectly in sync with the relaxed atmosphere of Tulum. “I hope people who visit the property will leave feeling rejuvenated from having spent time with nature, and really with themselves”, says Heredia.

Heredia himself is on a spiritual journey, which he undertook 30 years ago, and practices through yoga, karate, tai chi, the Tao and corporal psychotherapy. At the Papaya Playa Project too, guests can enjoy locally sourced dining options along the blue waters, indulge in massages and beauty treatments and also practice yoga and tai chi thus giving them a holistic wellness experience. The communal feeling the property tries to promote is further enhanced by an amphitheatre on the beach, which guests can use to perform acts related to music, inspiring readings and more. Heredia’s thought behind creating this experience for people was the “Gratitude for being present and alive in this dream that we call life.”

In line with his spiritual mindfulness, Heredia made sure that the property was designed in an eco-friendly manner with as many sustainable materials as possible. “As humans, we should take care of beings around us and be aware of our surroundings,” he says. The property has been built with respect to other organisms that consider the area their home. 93% of the jungle has been preserved, and water is cleaned through osmosis using an eco-friendly water treatment plant. Generators from diesel or gasoline are not used; instead the electrical energy comes from a grid plug in a hydro-electrical facility. “We are changing our heating system and will soon have solar energy and heating too”, he says.

The socially and environmentally responsible property does its bit to give back to the community as well. Through a program called Papaya Playa Labs, the hotel buys its supplies and decorations from the local community and develops new designs with the help of local artisans. Heredia and his team also support social initiatives such as building “community houses” for children and the elderly in Tulum. In addition, they have also partly financed the construction of the local Red Cross. Constantly inspired by the works of Antoni Gaudí for his search of a higher meaning through nature; Luis Barragán for his use of light and simplicity in his works; Frank Gehry for his organic shapes; and David Best for his sense of temporality, Heredia doesn’t plan on expanding the Papaya Playa Project worldwide anytime soon.