Quetzalcoatl, the mighty Feathered Serpent, was one of the most important gods for many of the different civilizations that settled in the center region of Mesoamerica (now central Mexico to Nicaragua). Kukulkan was the name the Mayan people gave to this deity that came to be considered one of the main deities in their pantheon. Together with his brother Tezcatlipoca, he created the cosmos, men and women, the sun and the sky, the earth, trees, and plants, almost everything we know. He’s both the force behind the earth and the sky, the bringer of rain clouds, and meaning of life.
His image didn’t only inspire the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, but throughout history, it’s been used as an emblem of a culture, of power, and nature. For instance, during the eighteenth century he became a symbol of the independence movement that was emerging in the New Spain, to the point that some people thought, or at least spread the story, that Quetzalcoatl was none other than St. Thomas Aquinas, who had taken that shape to evangelize the indigenous people. If this doesn't sound far-fetched enough, in the thirties, Mexican president Pascual Ortiz Rubio launched a campaign to "mexicanize" Christmas. In his plan, instead of Santa Claus being the one who brings presents to the children, it was Quetzalcoatl the one in charge of that job. He even made an event in which children could go and take pictures with someone dressed in a costume of the god. The point here is that the image of Quetzalcoatl still inspires many who see him as a symbol of their Mexicaness. Moreover, the unique way in which he was represented encourages new artists to create pieces based on the mighty imagery of the Feathered Serpent.
That's the case of Javier Senosiain and his breathtaking Nido de Quetzalcóatl ('Quetzalcoatl's nest') in Mexico. It's an apartment complex shaped like a snake, but that isn't the only thing that makes this construction unique (although it's pretty awesome, to be honest). We just have to admire the place in which it was built, the colors and intricate designs of its façade, the amazing interiors of the apartments. It's as if the building belonged to a realm of fantasy. It's filled with tradition and culture, but at the same time, its psychedelic design makes you feel like you're inside a dream.
As I said, everything related to the construction of this Quetzalcoatl homage is impressive. To start with, it was made on a 5,000 square meters field that wasn't really intended to hold a building due to the extremely uneven surface. To put it in more visual terms, the land was a glen surrounded by trees and caves where, unless you basically tore everything down, it was quite impossible to build something. However, Senosiain is one of the main representatives of an architecture movement known as bio-architecture, in which constructions have to adapt to the space and not the other way around. The main idea behind this type of architecture isn’t only to adapt the buildings to the land surrounding them, but to make them sustainable for the environment, meaning that it won’t represent a huge impact on nature. Bearing that in mind, the project was already a challenge, but he managed to make the most of that uneven environment and create something that molded to it, taking advantage of the natural caves and patterns of the field.
Originally the building wasn’t thought to represent the image of the god. It was actually imagined as a tube or serpent-like construction following the patterns of the land itself. However, in 1998, when Senosiain started the ten-apartment project, and once he created the first scale model, it was his wife who named it "Quetzalcoatl's nest" due to the snakes that inhabited the place. Soon, he realized that the land gave the building its snake-like shape, making the analogy more evident. Using the natural caves of the place, he created the curvy structure, and in the biggest cave he added a snake head as the mighty entrance to a long and enticing journey from the mouth to the rattle of the serpent (which works as a water deposit and ten storage rooms).
Although the interior of the building is impressive by itself, it follows a modern and quite sophisticated minimalistic design. The most captivating thing is the beautiful color scheme used for the exterior walls. In a similar style as the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí (who was also a representative of bio-architecture), Senosiain created beautiful mosaics in green, blue, purple, and orange tonalities that give life to the snake lying on the immense land. But to truly make it an icon of Mexican culture, besides naming it after an important deity and cultural symbol, the architect incorporated elements of this country's colorful traditions. Thus, some parts of the snake are adorned with huge colored rings that create gorgeous patterns inspired by the ancient art of the Huicholes, an indigenous group of artisans who create impressive designs with colored beads that have become a signature element of Mexican folklore.
If you want to live inside this magnificent and unique snake house, surrounded by a wonderful lake and fantasy-like landscapes, there are actually ways to rent one of the exclusive apartments for your next vacation. This place, which is just outside Mexico City, is a paradise on earth worth paying a visit to, since you’ll never see anything like it.
For more architecture facts, take a look at these: