When Eduardo “Roth” Neira moved to Tulum two decades ago, the city was a sleepy fishing village on the Yucatán Peninsula, known for its white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and its proximity to one of the world’s largest coral reefs, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. But, with the backpackers who once frequented Tulum came the moneyed tourists and developers seeking to cash in on the Mexican paradise. The results have been catastrophic on the town and its delicate ecosystem as trees are cut to build luxury resorts, climate change driving an overabundance of algae to block sunlight from the coral reef, and pollution.
Roth is trying to change that with Azulik, which, according to its website, “aims to reconnect individuals and tribes –both native and contemporary– with themselves, with one another, with others and with the environment.” One simple way to describe Azulik would be to call it a luxury eco resort with an art gallery, a focus on food, fashion, and design, and—an aim to reconnect its visitors with nature. Another way to describe Roth’s vision is a way of life. Azulik brings visitors to the present, with its elevated wood pathways that wind around the trees, its no-shoes indoors policy, and the picturesque views that beg one to rethink their place in the world. The undulating structure of Azulik brings it to life, blending it seamlessly with the nature that surrounds it. Roth also incorporated an art element, the SFER IK Museion, which exhibits artists like Kelly Akashi, Ernesto Neto, and Sissel Tolaas, and another art and food destination in the nearby jungle in Francisco Uh May. But to describe Azulik does it no justice, one needs to pay it a visit to experience the actual magic of the place. I spoke to Roth about Azulik, why nature is so important to him, and his place to build an “ancestral smart city.”
Can you tell me about Azulik and what you’ve built here?
The case for me for everything is nature. The respect of all the networking of plants that ancient in their life or doing a wonderful work for millions of years and we are destroying everything so what I tried to do is—first of all was respect nature, don’t cut any tree. Plant trees if possible and try to adapt to the form of the floor when we build.
We believe that the form the natural natural take thousands, millions of years in creating a certain form as a purpose because the nature is a very intelligent and connected system. And we don’t know how to live in harmony with anything. We destroy the nature, we make cemeteries and we build on top, but the idea is that we can learn from them and introduce ourselves in these networking in harmony, learn from these networking, live in harmony with this, and we will receive a lot of gifts for that, practical gifts like we live in in a more fresh environment with beautiful gardens protected by the sun.
But we will get a lot of surprises because the trees like these ones there [pointing to a tree] have branches in lives inside, but the chlorophyll is made outside when it’s a lot of light way he may have little leaves, there are many things but I think he says he that he says, Hi, I’m happy, how you are and then you receive this harmony and love for the nature way when you respect it. So for me, this is the lesson and I receive for nature, and we are all qualified to do is based on this principle.
What is at the core of everything that you’ve built?
The basis of our projects are always three—that is ancestry, that is related with all communities that are living before us here and we should respect them and learn from them, and help them to connect with the new technology of course. The art, all the concept of the art for us is the art is the what connects us with the sacred, with the source. So with this meaning of art, we use our ancestry. And nature, or trees. We are in a special relationship with trees. This is the basis of and our goal is to reconnect people. we have a construction company, we have an architectural company, we have a design division, we have an art division, we have a fashion division.
How do you handle challenges?
Well this was the process. Thanks to the obstacles we adore the obstacles. and what we create obstacles to ourselves when in the process of building. So we create impossible situation of problems that will be only resolved with a unique solution. We developed this concept because we wanted to make concrete dome to play the drums in the what is now the dome. But we don’t get the authorization for introducing tracks with the concrete and it was complicated because the descent on the road is it. So to resolve this problem we start building from top to bottom using material we never thought can be usable. We are building a whole city with this concept in the middle of the jungle, and without cutting trees, and it’s possible. This is the way we the obstacles are giving us a lot of gifts.
You say you’re a self-taught architect. Do find inspiration from other architects?
I don’t know nothing about architecture. I actually am discovering it, because they are coming here like once a week and they want to be there. Architects are trying to resolve problems and my architects create problems so we are in opposite directions.
Why is art so important to you?
Well because art as well shamans and the whole community and as well and natural connect you with the source with the divinity. Each tree has the root in origin of everything and the branches are in the sky. So this is a connection with life and with the source, that things happen with art, and this is the path to connect, to share.
We will now planning to do an ancestral smart city. So we will combine all the ancestral principles with cutting-edge technology to live in harmony with nature, without cutting trees, planting trees, and creating a space of possibilities for different people and man, to create things that will help many people will help peace or we help with meaning.
Article originally posted by forbes.