Contributing Monkie Jennifer Buonantony
Published on December 18, 2008
As a kid, I was never one for climbing trees. When it came to recreation, the idea of getting a skinned knee wasn’t exactly what I called relaxation. I guess that’s why I wasn’t instantly impressed by the tree-house like structures proposed as new guest suites for Verana, a hillside resort in Yelapa, Mexico.
Verana is a secluded resort located a short boat ride away from Puerto Vallarta. It sits upon a hillside in the Mexican Jungle and has panoramic views of the mountains and beach below (Note: You must be transported from the beach to the resort by mules!). The resort offers a variety of rooms ranging from studios and bungalows to suites and houses, all with amenities and access to a full service spa and dining.
So, you might be wondering where these tree-houses fit in.
To accommodate the employees who work seasonally at Verana, the resort decided to build a housing system that looks as though it came from a page of The Swiss Family Robinson. They dubbed these structures V-houses due to their shape. Modeled after similar structures called “hooches” (good name change), they were designed by Joe Scheer, whose purpose was to provide temporary shelter with minimal disruption to its surroundings.
Verana’s V-houses are made with metal frames, leave virtually no impact on the environment, and can be erected on any type of ground surface condition from hills to sand. They have a floor space of 16’ x 16’ — but since the walls tilt outward, the space when standing is actually 18’ x 18’ and 21’ x 21’ at the ceiling, giving the room a more spacious feel. And they’re spaced apart for privacy — which is a good choice, as the structures lack any true windows or full enclosures — and provide a breathtaking view where there otherwise wouldn’t have been one.
But then again, the view and novelty may be their only appeal.
Although the houses are self contained and are “green” — using solar panels on top, compost toilets and reusing grey water in the surrounding gardens — they lack any luxury. To connect the V-houses, the resort didn’t originally foresee having to build its current intricate system of stairs, walkways, and railings, making their access…well, a little like climbing a tree. Hope you packed light! Also, in viewing the pictures, it’s easy to see the houses themselves are very simplistic, lacking any appliances, and leaving one to wonder about electricity and showers — forget wireless internet!
And the fact that the structures are open implies that no one took into account noise from neighbors or what to do in the case of bad weather.
Of course, the V-houses were first tried as an experiment to provide staff and workers with a sort of dormitory system, and there is room for improvement on what I do think is an interesting concept. But an entire season in a V-house seems to me a bit like living in an episode of “Lost”. And as for offering them as guest suites, the V-houses are more like camping in floating teepees, which may appeal to some, but probably not the same demographic looking for a week away in a secluded paradise.
Another thing to think about is that this type of design would never be approved by any building department in the U.S. So, skinned knees aside, I think I’ll leave climbing trees to curious children and look for a “green” travel option with a little less adventure.