Unchecked development in the rapidly growing Mexican beach town of Tulum is threatening to destroy the region’s environment. In hopes of inspiring more sustainable growth, local architectural firm CO-LAB Design Office created Luum Temple, an eco-friendly bamboo structure for a new conservation-minded residential development called Luum Zama. Located in a conserved area of native jungle in Tulum, the bamboo community structure features five catenary arches, the shapes of which were informed by parametric modeling.

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Inspired by the concrete curves of legendary Spanish and Mexican architect Felix Candela, CO-LAB Design Office crafted a five-sided catenary structure that uses bamboo sustainably grown in the neighboring Chiapas state. Flat sections of bamboo were bent on site, cold molded on the ground, then screwed and strapped together to create the arched beams. For structural stability, the architects wove the beams together with a structural triangular pattern along with two continuous layers of tightly woven bamboo lattice. Local zacate (straw thatch) was used as roofing to protect the structure from rain and heat gain.

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“Luum Temple is a show case for sustainable development, it combines innovative design and engineering with artisanal building and organic sustainable materials,” explain the architects. “The arched vaults support each other, co-existing in structural dependency, serving as a reminder to the community of our interdependence and the accomplishments we can achieve when we work together.” The Luum Temple will be used to host “healing programs” such as yoga, meditation workshops, and community gatherings.

CO-LAB Design Office also designed the master plan for the Luum Zama residential development. Unlike developers in Tulum that clear cut existing jungle to maximize sellable land, Luum Zama has set aside half of its 8-hectare are for conservation of existing vegetation while also adding a reforestation program with endemic plants from the region. The architects hope that the project will help raise awareness for the urgency of conservation and regulation of construction in Tulum.

+ CO-LAB Design Office

Images by CO-LAB Design Office, Cesar Bejar, and Pakal Egger Tonatiuh Egger