For ten years before starting his own architecture firm, Michel Rojkind was a drummer for Aleks Syntek y la Gente Normal, a Mexican rock band that signed with Virgin records and cut four albums. “Because I had been a musician, it took a while before they started taking us seriously in Mexico,” he said. Luckily for Rojkind, who co-founded Adria+Broid+Rojkind in 1998 and his current firm Rojkind Arquitectos in 2002, other countries saw value in his rockstar status, and more importantly, in his architecture.
Now Rojkind has built award-winning designs all over the world, but the ones in his home country remain closest to his heart. “That is the thing about living in Mexico City,” he said. “It’s constant chaos, so you’re constantly inspired to improve things.”
Living in a city of nearly 22 million people also tends to lead to collaborations. Last year, Rojkind won a competition with Copenhagen firm BIG to design the new Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum extension just outside of Mexico City. For his new Tori Tori restaurant in the city’s Polanco neighborhood, Rojkind is working with industrial designer Héctor Ersawe to create a new home for the popular Japanese eatery. The scheme weaves a double-layer steel lattice over an existing house, one of many being transformed into restaurants or shops in the recently rezoned area.
Responding to Mexico’s traditions and history while planning for its economic and cultural future is a large part of Rojkind’s work in his home country. The Tamayo expansion will point its cruciform shape toward Mexico City, presenting sweeping views from its rooftop while creating ample space and ideal environmental performance for educational and cultural programming below.
A similar balance is reached by the architect’s design of the Nestlé Application Group research building in Querétaro Because the site is protected by UNESCO, the new structure had to incorporate a portico with arches. Initially, Rojkind was not very interested in such strictures, but putting programmatic requirements before design work is the firm’s paramount goal. He created a group of shiny orthogonal structures with semi-spherical interiors that cut through exterior walls, revealing the saffron-walled laboratories within.
Adapting studio designs and materials, not to mention timelines, to fit his Mexican projects is another challenge. For the Nestlé project, Rojkind had local workers fabricate the domed ceilings with simple steel parts instead of employing more complex manufacturing techniques. “I joke with my Swiss architect friends that I wouldn’t know how to work in Switzerland, where everything is perfect,” he said. “You have to figure out ways to make things happen here, and it inspires me.”