The History of the Shell House on Isla Mujeres
In the mid-1990s architect Eduardo Ocampo began building his home on the almost uninhabited south end of Isla Mujeres overlooking the Caribbean. His brother, famous Mexican artist Octavio Ocampo would visit often and one afternoon as the brothers walked along the shore, Eduardo picked up a couch shell broken in half and said to Octavio, “Imagine living in a house shaped like a shell” and Casa Caracol was born.
It took several years to build the shell house on the vacant lot next to Eduardo’s home. They wanted the house to be filled with light for Octavio’s studio, every corner rounded and every detail from the sea. The brothers could often be seen scouring the beach for shells to be used for lights, curtain hooks, mirror frames, and even the water faucets were to be fashioned from shells.
As Eduardo laid each unique piece of tile and shell and painstakingly constructed the twirling peaks of the roof, Octavio created artwork to adorn the walls and painted doors, nooks and crannies with swirls and visions of the sea
Not long after the house was complete, Eduardo married his lovely wife Raquel. Their wedding reception, with tables dotted around the pool and family and friends dancing under starry skies, was the very first “event” at Casa Caracol.
Eventually they added a second smaller shell with the same attention to details as the main house. Sadly Eduardo passed several year ago. His legacy lives on in Casa Caracol as well as many other homes on Isla Mujeres he designed and built over the years including Casa de las Cupulas.
Taxi drivers and tour guides love to tell the story of Casa Caracol. With a straight face they say that one morning many, many years ago, a giant shell washed up on the shoreline not far from where the shell house now stands. The say in all seriousness that the conch meat inside the shell was so abundant it fed the entire island’s population ceviche for days and when it was done they sold the shell to a man who turned into an art studio for his brother.
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