Paulina Villa is an architect and founder of the architectural firm CO-TA in Tulum, Mexico. She has been working there for many years and has experienced the (sometimes stormy) developments in Tulum. From a small village to the current hotspot. When we visited her we talked about architecture and about her approach to the profession. She also took me to a small hotel she built in the Aldea Zama district. We have distilled our conversations into a small interview.
How would you describe the local context and how do you take that into account when designing a building as an architect in Tulum?
I think every city evolves in conjunction with its inhabitants and everything related to them. This also happens with the projects I designed and built here. Whether it’s a hotel, home or restaurant. It’s like they have a life of their own in how they age. The changes include both good and bad aspects that I like to describe as “growing pains”. Like a child turning into a teenager. One of the main factors moving Tulum is tourism. That’s why since 2009 I’ve seen how visitors have evolved over the years into different profiles. Such as backpackers, gypsetters, tuluminatis, artists, families and others. These visitors create their own demand. And that creates the range of events, things to do, things to eat, and so on. These factors, I have seen, influence the spaces and the architecture, aesthetically speaking, in different conceptual styles from all parts of the world. This cosmopolitan mix has resulted in an interesting unique visual language. It’s how Tulum has created its own style.
What would be your absolute dream project to design? Or what are your aspirations for the future?
As an architect in Tulum, I would love to be a part of creating an artist residency or a museum. Culture is important in a place where people from all over the world live or just visit. I also think that when you have the space, the artistic community comes together and finds itself and exchanges knowledge and experiences. Imagine a space where you can have artistic internships and organize festivals or events in the fields of music, gastronomy, contemporary expression and art in general. In Tulum, there is currently a lot of awareness towards wellness to address. But the cultural aspect still needs to grow. In this current year of 2023, it even becomes a need, especially by the new generations of Tulumenses. Some even with another nationality besides Mexican.