Santa Maria del Mar Basilica

2nd Place, Competition by Invitation

Malecon Tajamar, Cancun, Mexico.  sanzpont [arquitectura]

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Project: sanzpont [arquitectura]
Location: Malecon Tajamar, Cancun. MX.
Status: 2nd Place, Competition by Invitation.
Year: 2013.

Design Concept.

Santa Maria del Mar is one of the oldest virgin avocations. She isn’t related to any apparition; instead she relates with the need that marines and their families who stay on land feel for having the highest protection from heaven. Stella Maris, Star of the Sea is how they call her since ancient times.

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Cancun, Sun and Beach.

03 - BSMM - Cancun, Sun and BeachCancun is a city of sun, beach and tourism. The architectural project though of religious character must respond to these 3 key elements and their correspondent transcendence. The city owes its foundation to the Caribbean architecture, composed of open and green spaces, latticeworks, etc. which provides natural comfort to the user.

Esthetic and Harmonic Beauty.

04 - BSMM - Esthetic and Harmonic BeautyWhen designing a basilica one must offer an official religious public building for the liturgical celebration and the adoration of the lord, a sacred space that provides purity, protection and serenity which by tradition is achieved by a standard of identity, top esthetic beauty, symmetry and proportion.

The Sea as Identity.

05 - BSMM - The Sea as IdentityInspiration for the concept comes from the strength and softness of the Caribbean ocean waves and the white sand of its beach. The rhythm of the ocean and the sensation of peace and harmony serve as design principles to provide a unique identity with a strong relation to the region and the project site.

The Mantle as Inspiration.

06 - BSMM - The Mantle as InspirationThe project is composed of a big public-religious (Catholic) space that can receive hundreds of people for mass inside a space of purity that radiates protection, harmony, softness and peace, all this simulating the protecting mantle of Santa Maria del Mar as maternal inspiration.

Integration to the Public Space.

07 - BSMM - Integration to the Public SpaceThe project is located in a new public sector of recreation in front of the Nichupte lagoon. The project must integrate, relate and complement the public space throughout a strong pedestrian connection with the new walkways, generating a plaza with green areas that invite the user to enter to the religious center.

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Climatic Analysis: For a sustainable design.

09 - BSMM - Bioclimatic Analysis

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Architectural Concept:  for a functional, bioclimatic, emblematic and urban project.

The virgin’s mantle inspires the project’s form as a maternal protection symbol. The ocean waves underline the roof’s silhouette in search for rhythm, harmony and balance. The perfection and balance of marine life also serves as inspiration in the design line.

Religious architecture is the reflection and evidence of culture through time.

11 - BSMM - Architectural Concept12 - BSMM - Site Plan13 - BSMM - Ground Level Plan14 - BSMM - First Level Plan15 - BSMM - Underground Level Plan16 - BSMM - Main Facade17 - BSMM - Posterior Facade18 - BSMM - Lateral Facade19 - BSMM - Sections

Religious Symbolism as Architectural Identity.

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Religious Walkways.

21 - BSMM - Religious WalkwaysSemi-roofed transitional spaces incorporation as part of a cultural-religious walkway, quiet spaces where it´s possible to pray and meditate in contact with a natural medium and an adequate comfort. The Virgin Mary walkway is represented by a rosary that surrounds the main nave.

Mantle as Shelter and Protection.

22 - BSMM - Mantle as Shelter and ProtectionThe design concept captures soft lines allusive to the delicacy and gracefulness of Santa Maria del Mar, generating a roof that offers shelter and protection with semi-open comfortable spaces in contact with nature that contribute to find peace within the congregation.

Exterior Museum.

23 - BSMM - Exterior MuseumThe project includes an exterior museum around the temple facades, providing a cultural walkway that creates a richer space experience for the user. The exhibition consists of the historic encounter between two great cultures: The Maya indigenous and the Christian occidental cultures.

Ethereal Mysticism.

24 - BSMM - Ethereal MysticismThe height variation that runs all along the roof and the natural sunlight that penetrates to the patios generate sensations of mystical spaces that show the greatness of the divine. The use of natural elements like vegetation and water offers a more intimate connection with the medium, generating a deeper connection with the user.

Design Inspired by the Sea.

25 - BSMM - Design Inspired by the SeaThe ocean represents life, its calmness and rhythm its serenity, its waves and turbulence the agitation. Water is essential for life; Holy water is the cleansing of sin. Water is the cradle of healing, cleans the soul and mind, maintains all of creations life, it’s an element for inspiration.

Symmetry and Harmonic Proportion.

26 - BSMM - Symmetry and Harmonic ProportionThe project shows the beauty that catholic temples have had throughout history, using a proportionate and symmetric language on a contemporary and vanguardist image. The curvilinear design encompasses the whole project in a single line attaining artistic beauty in a simple, clean and balanced way.

Traditional Religious Interpretation Language.

27 - BSMM - Traditional Religious Interpretation LanguageContemporary design based on church and monastery traditional architecture. The cloisters are interpreted as semi-open public patios and the ancient plazas where the indigenous used to hear mass during evangelization are now public plazas that can be integrated to the main nave.

Religious-Cultural Walkways.

Historic Exterior Walkway.

28 - BSMM - Historic Exterior WalkwayThe project’s façade functions as an exterior museum; it has a timeline board with the history of American evangelization.


Virgin Mary Walkway.

29 - BSMM - Virgin Mary WalkwayThe patios and public areas house the Virgin Mary walkway which surrounds the main nave through fountains, discovering the 20 mysteries.

30 - BSMM - Religious-Cultural Walkways31 - BSMM - Isometric Functional Projections32 - BSMM - Render 0633 - BSMM - Render 0734 - BSMM - Render 0835 - BSMM - Render 09

Urban Design: To integrate with its environment.

Creation of a new Public Space.

36 - BSMM - Creation of a new Public SpaceIts objective is to promote the city´s development and devotion. It pretends to become the cultural and religious zone center, and a must go for tourism by creating gardens, recreating spaces, cultural and didactic walkways and attractive panoramic views generated by the observation cross tower.

Semi-open Transitional Patios.

37 - BSMM - Semi-open Transitional PatiosTwo transitional patios located at the sides of the main nave divide it from the rest of the areas, either private or public. These patios are allusive to a cloister and give flexibility to the main nave to expand its capacity, they are semi-open spaces that control the temperatures and provide comfort also integrating to lateral chapels.

Public Space Park likewise Design.

38 - BSMM - Public Space Park likewise DesignThe design incorporates gardens, plazas and recreation zones that are allusive to a park; The spaces are integrated in such a way that an urban-architectural dialog between the zone and the temple is generated, allowing society to live the space as one.


39 - BSMM - AccessibilityAccessibility is created in diverse points, the lateral walkways and their peripheral zones, and short sidewalks that facilitate the user’s access. The roadways circulations that surround the site are used to integrate the project to its urban environment.

Symbolic Observation Tower.

40 - BSMM - Symbolic Observation TowerThe project has a multifunctional monumental cross that serves as an observation tower, an urban and tourism attractive that provides a beautiful panoramic view for visitors. This cross integrates a belfry in its highest point and pretends to become an urban reference point for the whole city.

Caribbean Identity.

41 - BSMM - Caribbean IdentityThe design reflects the Caribbean lifestyle, where climate is fully enjoyed by combining interior and exterior spaces, making the most out of the lagoon and ocean views, and the comfort that comes from a relaxed space surrounded by vegetation, shades and ocean breeze.

Nature Public Plaza.  

42 - BSMM - Nature Public PlazaThe project is based in the principle of creating public spaces, alternating two interior semi-open patios and two lateral public plazas in which nature is at reach by having vegetation and waterfalls that come from the roof like water curtains, generating spaces that invite you to enter to the temple.

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Religious Tourism: Cultural Attractive.

With the incorporation of cultural walkways, spaces for prayer and meditation, and the observation tower the project seeks to attract tourism to the basilica.

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Bioclimatic Design: Minimizing Environmental Impact.

The project counts with bioclimatic strategies to achieve an adequate comfort using natural renewable energy; this includes natural cross ventilation, solar protection and thermal isolation. Because of its bioclimatic design oriented to energy savings it avoids the use of mechanical cooling equipment that would imply excessive consumption of energy without even taking into account if the basilica were at its maximum or minimum capacity; By these means the environmental impact and the carbon footprint are reduced. The design responds to a correct and constant flow of ventilation, favoring the pressure difference that generates wind movement throughout all the spaces.

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Sustainable Design: Utilizing Renewable Energy.

Natural Cross Ventilation.

46 - BSMM - Natural Cross VentilationDesign techniques and elements to achieve natural cross ventilation are incorporated, refreshing all the habitable spaces; this creates an adequate comfort using a renewable natural resource and minimizes the use of mechanical energy to air condition the spaces, achieving a sustainability oriented project.

Natural Illumination.

47 - BSMM - Natural IlluminationHabitable spaces correctly oriented with natural diffuse light. The open spaces and the patios indirect sunlight maximize natural sunlight, minimize the use of natural illumination and considerably contribute to energy savings.

Passive Solar Design.

48 - BSMM - Passive Solar DesignSolar protection, temperature control and interior shading are generated by the roof which consists of a large doubled-skinned insulation deck. The solar radiation in the most vulnerable facades is controlled with latticeworks that prevent solar incidence and allow wind circulation.

Pluvial Water Captation.

49 - BSMM - Pluvial Water CaptationA water captation system is proposed for a later use in gardens and green areas, achieving a lower consumption of water, getting the most out of a natural renewable resource and creating a more sustainable building.

Architectural Program.

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Construction Method: Structural System, Based in Traditional Arches.

51 - BSMM - StructureThe structural concept is based on the traditional arches system that has been used in churches for centuries. This system transfers the loads from the roof to the foundations through elements that create big open spaces.

The project is solved with a mixed structural system. The foundation is solved by reinforced concrete pilings which will transfer loads to the rocky subsoil in accordance to soil mechanics studies in depth, capacity and load.

The parking slab that serves as the nave’s and plaza’s floor is a lightweight reinforced concrete grid slab supported by reinforced concrete columns. The lateral structures are made up of two levels of one-way joist and joist filler block slabs supported by reinforced concrete frames.

The main structure is supported by six multiple rigid arches made up of steel trusses with welded box profiles. The roof has a complex form that responds in a dynamic way to the wind’s action, therefore it’s solved by a three-dimensional truss of structural steel profiles covered with double-sheeted aluminum panels with low-density thermoplastic polyurethane core which has thermal isolation properties.

The roof’s surface must allow for an adequate preventive and corrective maintenance without compromising the structure’s integrity both for vibrations as for highly humid and saline weather conditions.

The risk of structural failure caused by accidental average wind actions, turbulence and hurricane winds is minimized by a series of rigorous calculations. The calculations consider the regional valid normativity and the national and international wind design recommendations, focusing on anchor design.

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Finish Criteria: Low Cost Maintenance.  

Pavement: Regional rock floors or stone quarry for exteriors and porcelain floor tiles for interiors.

Facades: Tempered glass, block walls and paint.

Lining: PVC faux wood stave or aluminum faux wood and thermal isolation multipanel deck.

Installations Criteria: Low Cost Use.

Electrical Installation: micro-turbine energy cogeneration capstone system, 3 pieces of equipment 65 KW each; synchronism and parallelism electric board of simultaneous consumption and low-consumption LED based illumination.

Air Conditioning: Partial, only Museum-Cafeteria and services buildings, 2 chillers 100 Ton each, located on basement. The residual heat produced by the micro-turbines is used for its function.

Pluvial Installation: Rainwater will be collected and storaged for irrigation.

Architectural project:
sanzpont [arquitectura]

Design Team / Collaboration:
Arq. Victor Sanz Pont
Arq. Sergio Sanz Pont

Eder Jafet Hernández
Mónica Merlín Becerra
Zahzil Sophia Martínez Juárez
Elizabeth Valencia Domínguez
Mauricio Duhart Hernández
Eric Gallegos Merchand
Julio Polanco Reyes
José Miguel Cano
Gerard Delgado
Oscar Sanz Pont

Structure Consulting:
Aviña & Duarte Asociados

MEP Consulting:
Edificaciones ARBIBE


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