Flavia Hotel is a Harmonious, Habitable Sculpture in Oaxaca

Designed by RootStudio, the boutique hotel merges opposing textures and nature-inspired proportions in eleven unique guest rooms.

In Oaxaca, where the urban edge of the city meets the access road to the San Felipe Nature Preserve, a new boutique hotel mirrors the muted color palette and natural proportions of the surrounding area. Flavia Luxury Hotel by RootStudio features four double-height stories, eleven wildly original guest rooms, a restaurant, a panoramic pool, a rooftop bar with 360-degree city and mountain valley views, and endemic landscaping by Luis Zárate—celebrated for his work on Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden.

Designed by Oaxaca City’s multidisciplinary RootStudio (whose work encompasses architecture, design, illustration, painting, and sculpture), Flavia Luxury Hotel was developed more like a sculpture than a commercial construction project. Its shape was carefully crafted to mimic the specific proportional characteristics of the land around it, adapting to the natural slope of the mountainous terrain and alternating space, light, and shadow with endemic vegetation and unfinished, industrial materials like concrete, timber, and glass. “The building’s form was built without plans or technical drawings,” says RootStudio director João Boto Cæiro, who conceived and designed the hotel. “It was made the way sculpture is: It was a process of direct work. The architectural nuances emerged as the work was created.”

The structure exists in easy harmony with the surrounding environment, while the design emphasizes stark contrasts between its harsh exterior and the unconventional details of its highly sensory interior. In the lobby, warm, locally-sourced teak wood wall panels meet the cool marble floors of the entryway, lined with LED lights to highlight the translucence of the stone. “Our goal was to seek a contrast between brutalism and shelter: a sculpture that becomes habitable,” Cæiro says. The severe, raw concrete exterior gives no indication of the plush, texturally eclectic interior that lies within its gently sloped gray walls.

Originally conceived as a residential home, the project evolved mid-process into an avant-garde hotel concept: Several of the guest rooms were named after what would have been living spaces inside the house. Each is totally singular in form and function, though all are connected in dialogue with each other—more like parts of a body than identical pieces of a collection.

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The pervading theme of stark contrast informs the interior design of the guest rooms as well: An underground “Bunker Room,” located beneath the cactus garden, is so well-lit from above it feels like the antithesis of an actual bunker—complete with a cozy “tunnel” where guests can lounge in a narrow, fur-lined passage that leads to a window overlooking the mountain valley. Artwork by local artist Sabino Guisu adds an atmospheric touch of neon blue light to the subterranean space. (Local artists Adán Paredes, Dali Nieto, Jesús Cuevas, Rolando Rojas, Francisco López Monterrosa, and Lucio Santiago also have work featured throughout the rooms.) Another underground suite, Cuarto de Maquinas, or the “Machine Room,” has its own sleek private sauna built into one of the walls. Other rooms embrace the warmth of wood panels peppered with botanical greenery, with large, modern concrete bathtubs in the center of the room, or direct access to the outdoor gardens. Upstairs, the guest rooms feature large, open picture windows, cut-away balconies, and sprawling city views: In “Nube” (named after the Spanish word for “cloud”), a compact balcony opens skyward from the solid, right angles of concrete.

On the roof, the Flavia hotel bar offers 360-degree views of evening city lights and the valleys and greenery of the San Felipe Nature Reserve. Intricately arranged, endemic landscaping by Luis Zárate animates the raw concrete walls with a range of cacti, pochote trees, pitayas, and aquatic plants, forming various gardens, courtyards, terraces, and an organic vegetable garden from which guests are invited to experience the region’s beauty on yet another sensory level.

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