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How is Yucatan Architecture different from the rest of Mexico?

Local Architect in Merida


Mayan Origin of Architecture

        In Yucatan we have a very rich history of colonization, but our roots are in another very rich culture as well as the Mayan culture. Yucatan was already functioning as a "great metropolis" organized and constituted when it was colonized. So when the Spaniards arrived in Yucatan and found that it was a rich, functional and organized city, they liked it a lot, but that was not why they decided to colonize it, they colonized it because that was the mandate they had: Colonize the lands of America, however they settled in Yucatan, ... colonized other regions and returned to Yucatan.


        When they arrived in Yucatan, the language they all spoke was the Mayan language. In fact the name of Yucatan is said that the Spaniards assigned it because when they arrived in these lands to everything they asked the Mayans, they replied: “uh yu ka-t'ann” which in Mayan means: “hey how they talk ”but it sounds like Yucatan. There are writings that this was the reason for the name that the Spaniards gave to the Yucatan Peninsula. Now we have to expose the primordial influence of the Catholic Religion in the conquest.


        When this region was conquered by Spaniards, who in turn were ruled by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Catholic Friars arrive to evangelize and in their eagerness to erase all vestiges of pagan gods, as they were called, they tried to erase these vestiges, building on the Mayan temples the new religious Catholic Temples, that is why a large number of Catholic Churches are built on Pre-Hispanic Mayan Pyramids.

Architectural pattern of the stroke of the City of Merida

          In Yucatan there is a Trace Pattern of the Cities, all the original neighborhoods, first towns and small cities, are formed with a Public Square with Park, around which is the Church, the government building and the commercial or market building and the Church. This pattern is repeated throughout the area.


The entire city of Merida is developed around the Plaza Grande as a central point and axis. On one of its sides we have the State Government Building, on another we have the Municipality Government Building, on the other hand the Casa de Montejo and on the other the San Ildefonso Cathedral.


             This is how the first quadrant of the Center of our City of Merida is formed. Since this city is the Main City of La Peninsula de Yucatan, it changes one of the sides of the quadrant designated to Marketing for another of power, but this is justified because the different neighborhoods are located around the Center of the city of Merida, these characteristic neighborhoods from Merida, they settled in the colonial era and were established to respond to the meticulous organization that the Spaniards were establishing in Tierras de America.


Each neighborhood was assigned a definition of use and characteristic. The Original neighborhoods are: The Barrio de San Sebastian, The Barrio de Santiago, The Barrio de San Juan, The Barrio de La Mejorada, The Barrio de San Cristobal and the Hermitage of Sta. Isabel each of these Neighborhoods has its own history and He responded at the time to a reason why it was created, we will tall about each of them later on.  


       In Yucatan, contrary to what happened in other states of Mexico, Spanish architecture was brought to the state and adapted to the environment, responding to its climate, vegetation and traditions, enriching it and using traditional local methods.

When Yucatan is chosen as the permanent domicile of the conquerors, they develop their own culture in the area by creating the Colonial Architectural Period that is nothing more than referring to the type of Architecture of Spain and France according to the conquering family. Then we have to understand that the term Colonial Architecture refers to an Architectural Period (time of colonization) and a set of features that it presents.

The Main Features of Colonial Architecture in Yucatan

Central Court Yard, Perimeter Corridors with Arcades and High Ceilings


When we observe or study about the main colonial features in Colonial Architecture in Yucatan we found this main features in all Colonial Heritage Homes in Yucatan:


Central Courtyard, Perimeter Corridors with arcades and high ceilings of more than 4 meters.


There are many more features, but these are the main ones (we'll talk about the other features later). If the property is very small the height of its ceilings, it indicates the colonial feature and the importance of the space, since the ceiling lowers gradually according to the hierarchical importance of the space. That is why we often find that only one piece retains the height of the ceiling and the rest of the rooms decrease accordingly.

In the trace of the Center of the City of Merida, you can see this example.

Characteristic elements of Yucatecan Architecture

The influence in the Architecture that the Woman had in this development, indirectly but significantly, we can appreciate it in the domestic workspaces, since although this does not do the works directly there is always within the Yucatecan Architecture the very defined space for the works domestic.


The kitchen is an essential and characteristic architectural space, it has an extractor hood, a kitchen plate that was previously called “burner”, a term that has been lost and is derived from the word oven, since the plateaus were provided with a space for cooking that was not a stove, but that was adapted like this and everything was cooked with coal, not with gas. We can observe in the Yucatecan Gastronomy the great variety of carbon dishes.

Hammock Hocks

Hammocks are a clear example of Yucatecan and Environmental Architecture, in all Yucatecan houses there are hammocks, which are elements in the walls specifically designated and designed to hang hammocks. Use of Hammocks The use of hammocks in Yucatan is not a fashion or tradition, it is part of a culture. And this is because Yucatecan Architecture also adopted this element and incorporated it into its Architecture, responding to the Environment in which it was established.


It is a rainwater container, totally or partially underground, constructed with mortar and coated with a mixture of lime, dust, rust and waterproofed with chukum. The ancient Maya called him Chultunes. So in the Colonial constructions we have Aljibes and in the Pre-Hispanic we have Chultunes, but they serve the same thing: rainwater collection.


The extractor hood in the kitchen in the colonial houses of Yucatan, is the characteristic element par excellence within the kitchen, it is what identifies a Yucatecan colonial kitchen. There are many shapes and classifications,  many styles, many additional architectural elements and many coatings. But in all of them you can always identify when a kitchen chimney belongs to Yucatan

High ceilings

The high ceilings are in the Colonial Houses of Yucatan, with high ceilings over 3.50 meters high. There is also a classification of materials from which they are made, and very particularly there are different construction techniques and construction materials used at the time of the colony in Yucatan.  high ceilings in the Colonial Houses of Yucatan have high ceilings

Environmental Characteristics of Yucatecan Bio-climatic Architecture

The most important feature of Yucatecan Environmental Architecture is cross ventilation. This feature is not found in other regions of the country and responds directly to the geographical location in which we are. We are in a Peninsula and by definition we are surrounded by sea. The sea breeze comes naturally and refreshes our environment, it is no coincidence that Merida is a “flat” city, this has long been taken care of, which is changing and very soon we will see this affectation.

What is cross ventilation?

We refer to the Cross Ventilation in Yucatecan Architecture to the fact that we must orient our windows so that they capture the dominant winds of the region and directly in the opposite direction leave an air outlet with another window. This serves to keep the house cool. When the Architectural design meets this characteristic we can say that the property responds to the environment in which it is located.

What are the prevailing winds in yucatan?

The Dominant Winds in Yucatan are those of the East. We must always try to capture (orient) the prevailing winds with our windows, but we must also remember that for this to work as we wish (to cool) it is necessary that the winds “come out”, so it is best to locate a window in the West. Then we have to take into account when we design that the DOMINANT WINDS IN YUCATAN are those that come from the East.

The Sun in the Bio-Climate Architecture of Yucatan.

The force that the Sun has in Yucatan is undeniable. Due to the location of Yucatan very close to the Tropics, the Sun reaches us directly, the rays seem to have no inclination in this region and the hours of higher incidence the temperature exceeds many times on average 45 degrees Celsius at the beginning of Summer .


Interestingly, Summer is not the hottest time in Yucatan, and this responds to the uses and customs of the state of Yucatan. We have to take into account the Sun when we design, but not only as lighting but also as a determining factor in the orientation of our Architectural Design.


If our Architectural Design is not actively responding to the Sun, life in this property will be miserable even if the Formal Architectural Design responds to the client's taste, once again I want to emphasize this fact and how important it is to discuss this with the client . It is our duty as Architects to create a Formative, Environmental and Functional Architectural design that satisfies the client.

Characteristic Architecture Materials in Yucatan



It refers to the colloquial name of the Havardia Albicans Tree very characteristic of Yucatan with a very spiny appearance and red color, it contains a dark wine colored resin that is used for dyeing. In architecture we use it as a dye and waterproof and this is how the ancient Maya used it, nowadays there are companies that industrialize it and it is already very difficult to find it wild, however many of our workers (ancient Mayans!) Are able to extract it in a traditional way.



The stone


The Piedra de Yucatan is undoubtedly the most important in Yucatan buildings. The ancient Mayans were experts in the handling of the stone and we can see it in the buildings of the Great Pyramids of Chichen Itza, of Uxmal, and so many other Archaeological sites that are still preserved and that day by day we marvel more and more that we are finding Mayan vestiges continuously. Because of the rich Mayan heritage, in Yucatan we have expert craftsmen in Stone Carving, in Stone Sculptures and Yucatecan Architects we incorporate stone details in Contemporary Architecture. This makes Contemporary Architecture respond to a heritage of traditions that make Yucatan Architecture unique


The straw


The traditional Mayan house was of Paja and Adobe, the straw of these constructions was of huano leaves that is a Palm (Thrinax wendiandiana) that grows wild in Yucatan and is a non-timber forest resource. His name in Maya is Ch’iit. It is used to roof the rural houses and in Contemporary Architecture we incorporate it as Palapas to roof terraces and open spaces.

Local Wood from Yucatan

Yucatan Trees In Yucatan there is a great variety of local Timbers from Trees that grow in Yucatan and that we use as architectural elements in the Construction of Wooden Houses and Furniture. These are some of the Trees from which we extract wood in yucatan and that we use in Architecture. There are many more trees in Yucatan, many medicinal plants and of Mayan tradition and use, but here we present those that we use in the Architecture of Yucatan both the Urban Architecture and the Landscape Architecture. The wood we use in yucatan for economic and resistant reason are:

When we talk about alternative wood to the common wood used with is more expensive in Yucatan like Cedar, Mahogany and Pine we turn our eyes to our local wood which are economic, hard wood and durable.

Balché, Pich, Chaká, Jabin,

Kitanché, Ch'iit, Siricote y Zapote

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