Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico
ROOTStudio combines contemporary cuisine with the principles of sustainable architecture to create an educational space where the past, present, and future of Oaxacan gastronomic culture converge defines the latest conversion and heritage recovery project by RootStudio in the former convent of Carmen Alto, in the historic center of Oaxaca.
The Gastronomic Center of Oaxaca takes inspiration from the existing conventual architecture, the rich local culinary legacy, and endemic materials in one of the largest commissions in Mexico by this multidisciplinary architectural laboratory.
In this project, whose main objective is to create a versatile place that stimulates community integration and harmonizes with areas for education and an exhibition area, a meticulous restoration of the original structure of the building dating back to the 16th century has been carried out using traditional construction techniques and materials such as lime, brick, wood, and green quarry stone, respecting the original materiality and recovering the architectural layout.
RootStudio’s synthesis, which preserves the materiality and typology of the property, establishes a dialogue between the urban environment and the pre-existing building to give rise to a center of studies, consisting of a rectorate, classrooms, and a public library.
All these elements coexist with commercial and recreational facilities, such as a restaurant, kitchen, cocktail, and tasting rooms, gallery, cafeteria, multipurpose rooms, auditorium, patios, arcades, and commercial premises.
Tradition and contemporaneity merge in this work by RootStudio, while a meticulous restoration was carried out, following the guidelines of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Oaxaca section, to preserve the primary features and historical hierarchy of the property.
The execution of the work, which comprises a total area of 5 thousand square meters and 7 thousand square meters of construction, was carried out by a team of more than 20 designers and supervisors from the Cultural Heritage Institute of the State of Oaxaca, INPAC, as well as from the Oaxacan Institute for the Construction of Educational Physical Infrastructure, IOCIFED.
Throughout the work, the splendor of the walls, ceilings, frescoes, vaults, original levels of the bays, and sealed windows were recovered.
During the process, among the most important events was the discovery of an 18th-century sewer, which has been transformed into a space for ancestral mezcal tastings and culinary experiences; and a diagonal window that resembles the one in the convent of the same order in San Angel, Mexico City.
In addition, the arcades of the maneuvering patio were also restored and converted into a space for outdoor events.
For the exterior areas, the original gardens and patios formerly guarded by the Order of the Barefoot Carmelites were utilized.
These were restored to restore the original splendor of the property and intervened in different periods and occasions to function as the Civil Registry of the State of Oaxaca and the Warehouse of Roads and Airports of Oaxaca, among others.
To contrast the past and present, RootStudio installed a contemporary element elevated in natural steel, where the industrial kitchens are located.
While in the parking lot, a two-story pavilion with steel pillars and brick vaults with 12 commercial premises and a public events hall that offers a privileged panoramic view of the mountains of the San Felipe nature reserve, the Santo Domingo Temple, and the Ethnobotanical Garden is proposed.
Rootstudio, led by Joao Boto Caeiro, is recognized for his integral sustainability signature, which allows incorporating buildings with their environment and reducing their environmental impact, using products with net zero carbon dioxide, CO2, emissions; and solutions free of chemicals, such as soap and alum-based waterproofing; and installed a solar energy system.
In the interiors, through a gesture that promotes the work of local talents, the production of custom furniture was entrusted to master carpenters and artisans, who used macuil wood, a tree popularly called rosewood and known for its medicinal properties.
The artistic richness of Oaxaca is present through collaborations with the Juchiteco artist Damian Flores, who created the mural “Men of Corn” to illustrate the different endemic species of this important plant, and with Sabino Guisu, who designed the murals of the elevators that communicate all areas of the building.
In the gardens, a landscaping principle was followed based on edible plants or those associated with the kitchen, including guajes, yuccas, zapotes, and magueyes.
Accessibility and inclusion are fundamental principles in this project since it seeks the interaction of individuals with their environment through facilities for people with disabilities.
Project: Combarde – Oaxaca Gastronomic Center
Lead Architect: Joao Boto Caeiro
Photographers: Lizet Ortiz