The 180-room W Retreat Kanai will be located near Cancun.
Image courtesy Richard Meier & Partners
The 180-room W Retreat Kanai will be located near Cancun.

Marking his first foray into Central America in a five-decade career, Richard Meier has unveiled plans for a pair of W hotel projects in Mexico. One will be part of a mixed-use complex in Mexico City, while the other will be a resort near Cancun.

The Liberty Plaza project in Mexico City calls for three 15-story towers.
Image courtesy Richard Meier & Partners
The Liberty Plaza project in Mexico City calls for three 15-story towers. One will contain a W Hotel; the other two will have offices.

The project to be built first is Liberty Plaza, a complex of three 15-story towers in Mexico City’s Santa Fe section, which is both a business district and home to Universidad Iberoamericano.

One of the Liberty Plaza towers will be a 132-room hotel, whose roof will feature a 50-foot-long pool flanked by a bar. The other two towers will contain offices, with stores and restaurants at their base, and will be joined together at the ground level by a two-story conference center. An underground parking garage will run the length of the complex.

All three towers will have environmental features. Louvers will sheath windows on the southern and eastern façades, for instance, and collected rainwater will be used to irrigate landscaping.

With their boxy forms, generous windows, and white-metal-panel exteriors, the buildings strongly evoke other Meier designs, especially his trio of condos along Manhattan’s Lower West Side. The architect says he prefers to design clusters of buildings. “It’s so much better to do a group of buildings, rather than a singular building, because it creates a place,” Meier says.

The Liberty Plaza W Hotel is set to break ground this summer, with an expected 2013 completion; the offices should wrap up in 2016.

The exteriors of the 180-room W Retreat Kanai, a beachside resort in Playa del Carmen, near Cancun, will also be white, though probably made of concrete or stucco, as metal might corrode in the salty air, says Guillermo Murcia, an associate at Meier’s firm. 

But the white exterior is where the similarities with Liberty Plaza end. At just three stories, and occupying only 10 acres of a 450-acre site, the hotel is intentionally unobtrusive, Murcia explains. In fact, the two buildings containing the hotel rooms are set far back from the beach down spaghetti-like walkways that loop over a mangrove swamp.

W Retreat Kanai is one of four new resorts to rise on this section of the coast, which is the last undeveloped parcel between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. The hotel is slated to open in 2014.