Written by Stephanie Carmon
I sat to have dinner with architect Genner Loria at Oliva Patio Restaurant, one of the establishments he has designed and built. While we were finishing our dessert, I asked him how he began in architecture, and what inspires him. As he was telling me his story, I realized I have several things in common with Genner. The similarity that inspired me to write this article is our mutual love for the derelict, falling-down buildings of the Centro. I think we admire them so much because we can feel their energy as we pass by or walk through them. We can feel the love, heartbreak, joy of births and sorrow of death, and undetermined energy trapped within the walls that have seen so much.
I first met Genner Loria at a Club Sibarita dinner; he and his wife were sitting at my table. As we chatted, he told me he did the interior for both Oliva Enoteca and Oliva Patio as well as Latte Quattro Sette, and I was an instant fan. I love the design of those gastronomic establishments and therefore began following Loria’s work.
Loria always knew he wanted to be an architect. When he was just a kid in elementary school, he would draw all the time. He drew anything and everything and loved to illustrate and create buildings and houses. His dreams followed him through junior high and high school, never once doubting that he would be an architect. He went from high school straight to the Yucatan State University (UADY) to study architecture in the 17th Century historic building right next to the Mejorada church.
We admire their beauty, even in the ones that are so frail it seems that if you lean on them, they might fall. And more than that, we see the potential to transform and regain bygone glory. But here is where Loria and I differ: I cannot make that dream a reality; it simply lives in my imagination. Loria on the other hand, can and does transform dreams to realities. He reclaims these buildings, rebuilding and restoring them in the most magnificent way. He is a true artist of his craft.
Inspiration Lies in the Ghosts in the Walls
Although he admires the work of renowned architects such as Ricardo Legorreta, Luis Barragan of Mexico and Frank Lloyd Wright of the US, he doesn’t identify himself with a certain style. He explains: “When I go to a place to recover it and build something new, I try to hear what the house has to say to me. The houses talk to me. I walk the whole house, observe the floor, the ceiling, the walls. Most of the houses are very old and semi-destroyed and the houses tell me how they want to be transformed. I get inspired. I go straight to my office, grab a pencil and paper and start to draw what I saw in the house. I draw what the walls whispered to me. I like to create my architecture like a Cinderella story. It fascinates me to delve into the metamorphosis of the house. I love working in the Historic Centro.” He is passionate about architecture because while serving a functional purpose, it also allows one to create an imagined world with artistic design and engineering solutions.
In 2008, he started his architectural and construction firm GGLS Arquitectura e Inmuebles SA de CV. The firm consists of a group of ten professionals: architects, engineers, and real estate agents. They work all over the city and state, but Loria’s preference is to be in the antique houses of the Centro.
Illumination and Harmony with Nature
One of the things that draws my attention to Loria’s buildings is the illumination and harmony with nature. He creates a spectacular space using whites and other light colors and captures natural light with an abundance of windows. He folds in natural elements such as small water ponds or builds around already standing trees. He believes that architecture and the environment are linked. Good architecture should be environmentally friendly and be synergistic with nature; they must live in harmony. He creates a space that is happy with life that breathes life and makes one think: I want to be here. He believes that the space will tell you what it needs in order to be inhabitable, and what plants, trees and illumination it will need to be restored to its former splendor.
He is also conscious of and takes advantage of alternative technology to generate natural energy. He uses LED light bulbs, A/C with inverters and, upon the client’s request, he will incorporate solar panels. There are certain construction techniques Loria uses – it seems
miraculous here in Merida! – to naturally regulate the temperature in a building. He takes into consideration a lot of factors, such as where the natural breeze comes from, or how the light will enter the house. There must be perfect equilibrium between nature and buildings.
Future Dreams for the Architecture of Merida
Genner dreams of a Centro recovering the splendor of long ago. He pictures the residential space that it once was, and that many of the ruinous houses and other types of buildings are brought back to their magnificence. He hopes that pedestrians will have more space to walk and are given preference over cars and busses. He and most residents of the Centro hope to see less pavement and more parks, less noise and more peace and tranquility. Loria hopes that Merida can be one of the cities most visited for its historical, cultural and architectural heritage.
Genner Loria reinvents himself with every new project, and emphasizes the importance of having the trust of the clients. His projects always exceed his expectations when his clients are involved, participating in the creation. He believes that success is when his clients are enjoying the experience, and he enjoys watching their dream house become a reality.. Architecture/Construction is more than just a business for Genner Loria; it is a passion in which he takes much delight sharing with his contented clients.