The story of Garden Santa Fe starts with a parking lot. While not usually how a sustainable project initiates, the immense underground parking structure bottoms out at 33 meters beneath the street, placing the ubiquitous automobile where it belongs, well below human and natural habitation. Set above is a typical mall, only its three stories are also subterranean. Lastly, there is the park. It is modest in scope for an urban center but as the surrounding area has been swallowed whole by development, the vegetated refuge will become a core social asset.
The architectural device of inserting three full story glass atriums essentially brings the outdoors to the underground floor plates. The circular courtyards, complete with live trees at the bottom and second level of the mall, provides a release from what would otherwise be a claustrophobic environment. Then there is the copious amount of daylight they usher inside. The energy density of the mall is 60% of typical retail spaces in part from the natural lighting, low energy equipment, and the reduced need for air conditioning, with some supplemental solar electricity. An extensive rain collection system and onsite greywater treatment and water reuse process makes a similar impact in water consumption. .
KMD Architects‘ Roberto Velasco: “The developer actually wanted more, so we decided to go for this very daring architecture. It takes the light into the space with this very large atrium that comes into the heart of the retail. The basic concept is how can we translate what is overground to what is underground. The problem was how do we bring both the daylight and park into the retail environment? There was nothing quite like this at the time in Mexico, so as we researched the concept we only found a few examples worldwide, and nothing with this type of program. We wanted to make it feel as though you are in the city and not underground. The solution, and I am being entirely honest about this, is something we came up with ourselves and did not copy anybody because there are so few examples
out there. I assume that others would have very similar ideas to ours somewhere in the world because it is so simple. That said, it was difficult to conceptualize but was very easy to sell the idea to the developer. Because he was already happy with the economics of the parking spaces he was very open to try something like this.”
Excerpt from [ours] Hyperlocalization of Architecture chapter Mexico Embeds, an eVolo Press book about worldwide contemporary sustainable archetypes.