Spending time in the Mayan Caribbean clearly reveals how life and landscape are influenced by geology: limestone bedrock erosion reveals subterranean water, which affects plumbing, foundations, electricity and gas. All building are dependent upon this condition: one cannot go deep into the earth. Natural forming subterranean pools and chambers are known as cenotes, and are connected by underwater rivers, known to many a tourist day tripper. The Mayans used these cenotes, or pools, for bathing, worship and ritual sacrifice. These cenotes are recreated for body worship by the Rockwell Group.
The Rockwell Group has re-created the ritual of bathing in the cenotes in their subterranean conical structure featuring a reflection pool at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen resort. The effect is magical: integral lighting reminds us of the night stars, so prominent here; an opening high above at ground level lets in filtered sunlight, similar to being in a natural cenote; layered limestone catches the light, creating a dramatic shadows; and simple detailing prevent the whole thing from becoming kitsch.
The spa is first glimpsed on a path that meanders from the lobby to the beach that is punctuated by kiosks selling coffee, smoothies and tacos. Looking like a mini-volcano, it pokes its head out, letting light filter below.
The spa lobby combines screens with a cantilevered desk. I like the energy of the contrasting angles, and the calmness of the materials.
The hallway from spa lobby to pools has sloped walls, with integral lighting creating light and shadow on tile.
Each spa room looks out onto a private landscape, thanks to ingenious landscape that separates rooms from treatment rooms. Louvers are also a repeating theme, providing privacy and much need sun protection in this tropical climate.
Modern detailing coupled with experimentation with materials is a trademark of the Rockwell Group projects, and this is evident in several other areas in the spa, including a reflection pool.
David Bjørngaard, March 2016