Rozana Montiel

Emerging Voices News

City out of Line, Mexico City. (Jordi Bernadó)

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices competition identifies leading talents in architecture and design in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Meet the eight 2016 winners that were selected for their “distinct design voices and significant bodies of realized work.” Each firm will deliver a lecture this month in Manhattan. The second lecture takes place tomorrow, Tuesday, March 29 at 7:00 p.m. when Rozana Montiel and Omar Gandhi present their work.

Rozana Montiel / Estudio de Arquitectura

Rozana Montiel’s practice is centered around unveiling social constructions in conceptions of space and concern for placemaking over static products on all scales in both public projects and private commissions.

Montiel explained that, fifteen years ago, she got a grant from the Mexican government to study urban space. Montiel photographed the sites, people, and objects of Mexico City, conceiving of it as “a container of stories, sites, and everything else.” She came to realize “architecture is not only a construction with bricks, it’s also a social construction.” She mused that “there are different cities—the ambling city, the vacant city, the object city”—layers of integrated space nested within the arbitrary geopolitical boundaries of place.

That early experience, plus the influence of critical spatial theorists like Henri Lefebvre and Félix Guattari permeate her and her team’s work. “Placemaking is an ongoing process, while placemade is a product. Not as public space management, when people take possession of space, it becomes sustainable, and then it really works.”

Common-Unity, Mexico City. (Sandra Pereznieto)

Common-Unity, Mexico City. (Sandra Pereznieto)

The strategy is evident in Montiel’s Common-Unity, completed in 2015 with Alin V. Vallach, a project that engaged public housing residents in a Mexico City complex to redesign common spaces that were divided by inflexible and arbitrary boundaries. Montiel and her collaborators used participatory action research to best determine how the housing complex’s shared space should be designed. After observing that tenants extended the private space of their homes into shared courtyards via makeshift tents for parties and gatherings, the team built covered areas and equipped some for specialized activities, like blackboards and climbing nets. Consequently, residents felt a renewed sense of ownership and pride in their shared space.

Lake House, Valle de Bravo, Mexico. (Jordi Bernadó)

Lake House, Valle de Bravo, Mexico. (Jordi Bernadó)

2016 promises to be a big year for Montiel. With fellow architect José Castillo and INFONAVIT, she’s been selected to participate in (her second) Rotterdam Biennale, with “old and new housing for the next economy in Mexico.” The project conceives of “housing as more of an action than a product,” and entails creating public space in Mexico’s social housing, where there’s a shortage of half a million units nationally and a lack of community in the spaces that do exist. Montiel was also selected to exhibit—for the fourth time—at Venice this year. In March, she is contributing work to DEMO:POLIS, a show in Berlin that explores the significance of public space in contemporary cities.

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