Posts tagged with "Mexico City":

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Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura deploys vernacular construction in Mexico’s traditional communities

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura founders Jesica Amescua and Mariana Ordóñez Grajales will deliver their lecture on March 15, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Since establishing their practice in 2015, Mariana Ordóñez Grajales and Jesica Amescua, of Mexico City–based Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura, have continually worked to push the limits of their socially guided architectural practice and the architecture and building that result from it. The practice combines academically minded research with materials engineering and community-led participatory design and construction to generate new forms of vernacular architecture in rural communities. “Our work begins with a social feasibility study,” Ordóñez explained. “We analyze and understand the capacity, willingness, and degree of organization that a community has to face difficulties. Then, we carry out the processes of research, social management, participatory design methodology, and finally, construction itself.” For the architects, the true power of their profession lies in their ability to facilitate the culturally appropriate material improvement of these glossed-over rural communities, as evidenced by the firm’s work on a series of childbirth centers across Tenejapa Municipality, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Comunal partnered with a group of local midwives to conceptualize a network of pitched clapboard structures that will help the delivery nurses formalize their practices and achieve their goal of eliminating infant and maternal mortality in the region. Through built projects and academic research, the office also works to stave off the modernizing—and standardizing—effects of market forces and government regulation, which can produce alienating, short-lived structures and can often disincentivize the use of trusted materials like bamboo and thatch. In a recent project, for Mexican social housing developer Infonavit, created in partnership with Mexico City-based architects Escobedo Soliz, Comunal helped create a courtyard home prototype built from these traditional materials. The vivendas are defined on one end by a home capped with a steeply raked roof that conceals a double-height interior volume containing a loft and the sleeping hammocks that are customary in the region. The courtyard complex is designed for passive ventilation and is erected out of running bonds of offset, buff-colored concrete block, with stone foundations. An indoor-outdoor kitchen sits opposite the lofted space, with a generous patio sandwiched in between. Amescua said, “Vernacular architecture poses a close link and a constant dialogue with the territory, where the symbiosis between it and the inhabitant becomes evident not only in the form and functioning of the architectural objects but in the way in which elements are grouped.” Working with traditional materials and construction techniques fueled Comunal’s approach for another social housing project, from 2013, with Unión de Cooperativas Tosepan Titataniske, a cooperative made up of indigenous communities in the state of Puebla. In this project, the designers pushed to incorporate bamboo construction in ways that would still allow regulators from the state to approve— and potentially fund—the project. For the development, Comunal and local partners developed a set of modular infill panels and roof trusses that sit on or between concrete-block walls and bamboo piers buttressed by intricate brickwork. The wall panels utilize bamboo and cementitious materials alternatively, depending on functional need, while the corrugated metal panel roof is designed to facilitate rainwater capture on site. Lessons gleaned from the project were implemented in a 2016 effort in the same area that utilizes a primary set of concrete posts and beams for structure instead of bamboo. The social housing project was recognized in November 2016 with a silver medal in Mexico’s National Housing Commission’s First National Rural Housing Contest and has led to new work with the organization.
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Design Week Mexico kicks off in a recovering Mexico City

This week, the 9th iteration of Design Week Mexico (DWM) will kick off in Mexico City. As Mexico’s premier design and architecture event, the city will be filled with installations, gallery openings, lectures, and exhibition openings. This year’s festival will focus on the work of contemporary designers from all over Mexico, along with work from the Guest Country of Switzerland and the Guest State of Puebla. Originally scheduled for the first week of October, the festival was delayed by one week due to a devastating earthquake. On September 19 a 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook central Mexico. Its epicenter was just 34 miles southwest of the city of Puebla, in Design Week Mexico’s guest state of Puebla. The earthquake caused widespread damage throughout the Puebla and Mexico City region, and ultimately killed 370 people. Striking just a week after another deadly earthquake struck southern Mexico, include DWM’s 2015 Guest State Chiapas, the focus of all of Mexico for the past month has been squarely on recovery. While the recovery and mourning continues, Mexico City is ready to welcome international guest for Design Week. Taking place throughout the city, the festival will fill multiple art and design institutions, including the Museo de Arte Moderno and the gardens of Museo Tamayo. The Museo de Arte Moderno will play host to 100 Years of Swiss Design, a show first shown in 2014 at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich. The DWM version of the show will expand to include the shared histories of Mexico and Switzerland, and will also mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the countries. The Museo Tamayo will be the city of the Tamayo Project, a major architectural pavilion akin to London’s Serpentine Pavilion. This year’s project was designed by Mexico City-based Materia. Opening during Design Week, the pavilion will be open in the museum’s gardens, Bosque de Chapultepec, through the spring of 2018. Design Week Mexico will also be running concurrently with Expo Design Week, the city's major commercial fair. The two events have collaborated with a number of design institutions and corporations to put together a series of talks about the industry in Mexico. Expo Design Week itself will bring upwards of 140 Mexican and international designers together. This year’s event also marks the designation of Mexico City as the 2018 World Design Capital. The biennial honor, issued by the World Design Organization, recognizes cities that use design for economic, social, cultural, and environmental development. Currently Taipei, Taiwan, holds the title. Mexico City is the first city in the Americas to named World Design Capital. Design Week Mexico will run from October 11 through October 15, throughout Mexico City. The Architect's Newspaper will be in Mexico City the whole week covering the events.
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Pedro&Juana's Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss show off their new apartment in Mexico City

This article appears in AN Interior's sixth edition—if you're not a subscriber, there's still time to buy it on newsstands! See our list of stores here.

Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss, of Mexico City–based Pedro&Juana, met in 2005 while attending SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture). The pair then spent about four years at Jorge Pardo Sculpture (JPS) in L.A. They launched Pedro&Juana in 2012, after moving to Mexico City from Mérida, Mexico, where Pardo had been building a hacienda. In the years since, the firm has developed a series of architecture- and furniture-driven designs, including installations for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB), 2016 Design Miami showcase, and an upcoming design for the Commons, a multiuse engagement space at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In all of their projects, they furnish public areas with furniture of their own design, imbuing utilitarian spaces with a joyful energy and effervescent wit. Those sensibilities—and some of those furniture pieces—are fully realized throughout the pair’s recently renovated, 1,200-square foot Mexico City apartment.

“We kind of just did it the way we wanted to,” Ruiz Galindo said, describing the radical renovations the pair made to their fanciful apartment in the city’s Colonia Juárez neighborhood. The residence is located in a two-story, 176-unit neoclassical building built in 1913 as housing for the administrative staff of a local tobacco company called El Buen Tono.

The apartment had a long history of deferred maintenance and disjointed alterations that allowed the designers to reprogram the spaces as they saw fit. “We eradicated hallways and, typologically speaking, went back in time,” Reuss said. The flip was simple: Service areas were consolidated and modernized in the front of the apartment, while bedrooms were moved to the back. The unit’s two patio spaces were revamped too, with one receiving a wooden deck and the other a masonry floor. The wooden deck sits above an open basement level designed to passively cool the unit. To access the basement, Ruiz Galindo and Reuss added a new spiral staircase made from salvaged wooden beams left over from the construction. “That basement can be a problem. In our neighborhood the city sinks between 10 and 15 centimeters every year,” Reuss said, explaining Colonia Juárez’s extra-porous subterranean landscape. When it rains, the apartment’s basement sometimes floods as a result.

The main bedroom’s floor was replaced. There, the designers painted the new floors white to match the walls and ceilings of the room. A low, wide bed fills a space shared with a rocking chair and a lamp prototype leftover from their days at JPS. A nearby bathroom is decorated with brick checkerboard floors and a colorful array of citrus-hued tiles. The kitchen, simply articulated and looking out over the masonry floor courtyard, features built-in cabinetry and wooden countertops. Water damage from semi-seasonal flooding left the original pine floors in the dining room rotted through, so Ruiz Galindo and Reuss replaced them. The new pine floors match the casework, everything a crisp hue of light golden brown. Deeply recessed French doors cut into the exterior masonry walls of the room, opening out onto a shared courtyard. The doors, studded with divided lights and paneling, like the wide sweeps of crown molding above, echo the Beaux Arts provenance of the building.

The rest is a mix of contemporary objects and hand-me-downs: utilitarian bracketed bookshelves, prototype chairs and leftover lamps from the CAB installation, a pair of cabriole-leg chairs upholstered in yak wool. Stacks of tiny objects abound too, including groupings of the firm’s Maceta ceramic pot, a stackable vessel made of inverted, symmetrical cones of clay. These objects, Reuss said, are “the residues and leftover prototypes, extras that [over time] started to populate our house.”

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Cadaval & Solà-Morales is building a striking collection of architecture on two continents

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. The firm featured below (Mexico City and Barcelona-based Cadaval & Solà-Moraleswill deliver their lecture on March 16, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Eduardo Cadaval and Clara Solà-Morales met at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and launched their practice, Cadaval & Solà-Morales, in New York City shortly after in 2003. Two years later, they moved it to Barcelona and Mexico City. Their first projects were two residences: the House at the Pyrenees—a renovation and expansion of a vernacular house perched on the top of a mountain in Aran Valley, Spain—and TDA House in Oaxaca, Mexico, a beach house that can easily be opened and closed depending on the weather.

With a focus on residential architecture in challenging sites, Cadaval and Solà-Morales strive for an honest, straightforward approach—hitting that intersection of theory, practice, and academy. “We always look for simplicity in our work,” said cofounder and partner Cadaval. “We try to make bold projects that can stand the passage of time and not rely on the latest trends. We enjoy working at different scales and types of projects so we don’t have a set goal to achieve. We just try to do our work in the best way possible and enjoy the process.”

This simple approach has led to striking results: The X House is nestled into the hills of Cabrils, Barcelona, celebrating the expansive, dramatic views of nature and the city. The project also makes use of concrete construction techniques typically used for building bridges and tunnels. To help reduce costs and shorten the construction schedule, the project relied on high-density concrete made using a single-sided formwork rather than a double-sided one.

Outside of Spain, Cadaval and Solà-Morales are building up a body of work in and around Mexico City. “Recently we have been working on buildings that are part of an effort to densify Mexico City,” said Cadaval. These include urban residential units, such as Córdoba-Reurbano—a conversion (renovation and addition) of a formerly abandoned historic home to nine residential units with ground-floor commercial space.

Cadaval and Solà-Morales, both associate professors at the Barcelona School of Architecture, have also completed ephemeral works, including a Reporters without Borders exhibit at Robert Palace in Barcelona.

“We think that it would be very pretentious from our part to say that we stand apart from other offices,” explained Cadaval. “We all try to do our best. The only thing that we do is try to work as hard as possible and try to find solutions that simplify and synthesize the project.”

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Inside the rising Mexico City–based practice of Frida Escobedo

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. The firm featured below (Mexico City, Mexico–based Frida Escobedowill deliver their lecture on March 2, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Mexico City–based architect Frida Escobedo has only ever worked for herself. A graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and the Arts, Design, and the Public Domain program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Escobedo cofounded her first office, Perro Rojo, in 2003.   

In 2006, she began her eponymous firm, realizing a trend-setting rehabilitation and reinterpretation for the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s home and studio that utilized screened walls made up of breezeblocks. Casa Negra, built in 2007, is a slightly deconstructivist sentinel clad in black panels that straddles a bluff overlooking a rural road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca. In 2013, her studio conceived of a circular, weighted plaza sculpture for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Escobedo explained, “Our work goes from the scale of furniture to something larger.” Escobedo’s Aesop store in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood similarly plays into that teleology. In the small storefront, she manipulates the scale of objects and vistas through reflection. Bathed in an ochre light, the shop is divided by a series of reflective, glass partitions and is populated by sections of boulders and tropical Monstera deliciosa plants. Here, prismatic color and reflected silhouettes distort scale.

Escobedo’s more recent work expands the senses even further. A recently completed screen at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University is crafted from Solanum steel and designed to create melodies. The rhythmic tapping made by children running sticks across railings inspired the installation—a halcyon tendency Escobedo ties to ideas of coming home. She explained that the structure is “not only perceived visually… You can play with the screen as you move along it and the closed fragments produce different sounds.” 

Escobedo’s eight-person office is currently working on two social housing projects: One in the rural area of Taxco in the Mexican state of Guerrero will take the shape of an incremental housing scheme, while another in the town of Saltillo is made up of rowhouses. Regarding both projects, Escobedo said, “We’re trying to do as much as possible with as little as possible while also reducing as much as possible the debt of the people who are acquiring these properties,” the architect explained. The Taxco scheme will ultimately result in a fully-built out home, featuring a double-height room that can be subdivided vertically as the resident family grows. According to Escobedo, the goal of the scheme was “to optimize the subsidized credit [provided by INFONAVIT, the housing developer] by first building what is most costly and therefore what will give more value over time; and second to provide people with a finished building, that is sometimes more encouraging and gives the sense of completion.”

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Talking public space with Jan Gehl in Mexico City

Mexico City is the largest city in North America and has been around since the 14th century, when the Aztecs settled the area. Many layers of history, culture, and development both private and public can be seen in its rich architecture and urbanism. Crumbles of pyramids abut Spanish cathedrals and huge modernist housing blocks, foregrounded by spectacular parks, statues, and fountains from the various periods in the history of the region. However, along with the complex history comes a complex city. The organizers of CoRe Foro Urbano CDMX 2016, a two-day summit of experts from the development, policy, design, and transportation sectors, cited this complexity and a perceived lack of leadership among the Mexico City's many stakeholders as the impetus for getting together and addressing its multi-faceted challenges. The main initiator of the conference was Kaluz, "a diversified conglomerate of companies active in the following sectors: industry, construction materials, and financial services." They worked with the Planning Commission of Mexico City and the Delegacion Cuauhtmoc (the local borough government) to realize the forum, which is organized into four panels: Mobility, Public Space, Citizenship and Responsibility, and Zoning and Diverse City. It was not structured as lectures or talks, but more of a series of roundtable discussions that were aimed directly at the problems of Mexico City, and how each can be addressed with real solutions. This is part two of our series, "Urbanism in Mexico City," reported live from the discussion.  Mexico City has an abundance of public space and is a leader in this way. For residents and the government, it is an important part of the city and includes parks, plazas, fountain squares, or large sidewalks along the boulevards. The city even has a Public Space Authority and a Program for Neighborhoods and Community Involvement. Architect and author of Cities for People Jan Gehl, in his keynote, railed against the excesses of modernist planning, including its out-of-scale urban developments such as Brasilia, and its lack of human-scale interaction at street level. He showed images of cold, haunting modernist schemes and juxtaposed them with their supposed goals, such as the creation of erotic space. He also pointed out that the car had an adverse impact on cities, "totally overwhelming" them. He cited Jane Jacobs as a prominent voice in criticizing this era. In 1961, she published her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, only one year after Gehl graduated from architecture school. Gehl said that over the last 50 years we have finally learned how to design cities. However, he cites the Piazza del Campo Siena in Tuscany as the best public space in the world, which was made over 700 years ago. But it has the 12 human-scale, people-oriented qualities that Gehl seeks, which bring protection, comfort, and enjoyment. Today, Gehl says that we need a lively, livable, sustainable, and healthy city. Ethan Kent of the Project for Public Spaces said that public spaces were included on the Habitat III New Urban Agenda, the document that sets forth a path for thinking about the 21st-century city and how it will be formed. He noted that a place is best when it has ten or more uses. "There is more support for public spaces here than anywhere else I have been," Kent said. He explained his theory of place-led development that comes from engagement with the users to define the program at the outset. Architect Tatiana Bilbao is interested in designing not only for those coming to shop or pass through an area, but those who live nearby. These intended publics, says Muller Garcia, secretary of environment for Mexico City, must be properly programmed, but also cared for by those who feel ownership in them, in order to make sure the targeted publics are the ones who end up enjoying them. Francisco (Pakiko) Paillie Perez of derive LAB noted that while we need rules and regulations to assure access for all people, those laws come with many territorial designations that are dangerous, especially because it is not always clear who makes these rules and what ends they may serve. As for the private sector, developer Guillermo Buitano pointed out that while it is possible to make private places public, developers should look past their own projects to determine their sphere of influence. Amy Kaufman of AK Cultural Planning suggested that the strength of public space is that it can gather a range of people into one vibrant place that reflects the culture of the community through the engagement of artists who can enliven spaces through a process-oriented approach, much like Kent's place-led development that starts with program. For Mexico City, the public space needs to be safe, says Perez, and that means cutting down on attacks on women, and also on moving the informal vendors into the street and off of the sidewalk. All in all, Mexico City is in good shape for public space, and with people focused on keeping them that way as the waves of change inevitably alter the city.
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What is the future of transportation in Mexico City?

Mexico City is the largest city in North America and has been around since the 14th century when the Aztecs settled the area. Many layers of history, culture, and development—both private and public—can be seen in its rich architecture and urbanism. Crumbles of pyramids abut Spanish cathedrals and huge modernist housing blocks, foregrounded by spectacular parks, statues, and fountains from the various periods in the history of the region. However, along with the complex history comes a complex city. The organizers of CoRe Foro Urbano CDMX 2016, a two-day summit of experts from the development, policy, design, and transportation sectors, cited this complexity and a perceived lack of leadership among the different stakeholders as the impetus for getting together and addressing the multi-faceted challenges of the city. The main initiator of the conference was Kaluz, "a diversified conglomerate of companies active in the following sectors: industry, construction materials, and financial services." They worked with the Planning Commission of Mexico City and the Delegacion Cuauhtmoc (the local borough government) to realize the forum, which is organized into four panels: Mobility, Public Space, Citizenship and Responsibility, and Zoning and Diverse City. It was not structured as lectures or talks, but more of a series of roundtable discussions that were aimed directly at the problems of Mexico City, and how each can be addressed with real solutions. This is part one of our series, "Urbanism in Mexico City," reported live from the discussion.  The first panel focused on transportation, which for Mexico City is seen as a hinderance to development, as the public systems are not as robust as in London or New York. Mexico City has developed along long corridors that have been around since it was founded, and in the 1860s, these large streets became boulevards, as was the European tradition. Development followed these main arteries, but the car came along and made them less effective for the city. While the city has adapted and incorporated cycle lanes and sidewalks on the main areas, gentrification has brought more traffic. Riccardo Marini of Gehl Architects pointed out that this is not just about livable cites, but also about the species-scale problem of burning fossil fuels. Camilla Ween of Transport for London explained how some of the best projects in central London are smaller-scale pedestrianization projects and connections rather than big technical undertakings. Architect and urbanist Jan Gehl agreed that cities are not great for cities, and took it a step further: Shared cars and autonomous cars are no better than single-driver cars, which were perhaps a good idea on the open ranges 100 years ago, but are bad for people and the environment. He is optimistic that we are winning, and that the future is bright for public transportation, although it will require big commitments. Planning, real estate, and transportation consultant Andres Sanudo cited parking lots as a big problem for Mexico City. The money that private developers spend on parking lots could build a huge amount of public transport, while also encouraging people to get rid of cars and take them off the road. Their solution is to change the codes to have maximums for parking spaces in developments rather than minimums. Michael Kodransky of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy said that minimums also prevent the city from densifying, and that densifying a city gives it the resources and users for public transportation. Edgar Farah of 5M2 noted that while public transport allows more access for the young and the poor, it is also important to have a range of transport systems for a range of people. "The main problem of mobility in the city is that we have made many people go away," he said. Sanudo agreed with this statement, saying "How do we get those people—that the market has driven out—back into the city without distorting the market?" For Mexico City, connections to the metro area are a challenge for the future, as many of the workers in the central districts commute over two hours to work. Florencia Serrania of Prodi said that reducing that by even 30 minutes with better transport, signage, and connections would make a big difference. The metropolis of over 23 million has to become a connected and mobile city to be one that is accessible to all of the populations. The participants each suggested an action they would implement first, which included:

Give over half of the streets to bikes and walkers.

Make people give up cars for a short period of time.

Commit to the Metro system (subways and buses).

Build things for the people who build the towers.

Limit the number of plates that could be issued and make it an auction.

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The Mexico City designers forging a new path beyond modernism

Mexico City is the fifth largest city in the world, with over 17 million inhabitants. There, below the looming volcanic peaks of Popōcatepētl, a rising cadre of young designers is making its mark on this ancient megalopolis. Yes, the city’s architecture schools like Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Universidad Iberoamericana are bastions of the now-classical modernism of Luis Barragán and Ricardo Legorreta. But in a metropolitan area so vast and so densely packed—Mexico City reportedly has about four times the density of New York City—handcrafted and informal solutions are never out of reach. It’s within this tense, sweet spot that Mexico City designers truly excel: By combining high-design references with homespun folk art, designers are able to create works that are contemporary, but also contextual and artisanal, and that speak to the contested and refined realities of their home city. With a grab bag of contemporary stylistic influences coupled with the methodical pedagogy of their elders, the current generation of designers is quickly moving past the orthodoxy of the city’s Modernismo traditions toward new enterprises that blend design, architecture, and furniture. The city will host Design Week Mexico from October 5-9, 2016, will be the WorldDesign Capital in 2018—the sixth in the program and the first North American city to be named as such.

Escobedo Soliz

Established in 2011 by classmates Lazbent Pavel Escobedo Amaral and Andres Soliz Paz, who studied architecture together at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Escobedo Soliz was awarded the prestigious 2016 Young Architects Prize (YAP) by the Museum of Modern Art for its Weaving the Courtyard project. The firm’s ethos is rooted in mining the tectonics of history and tradition to inspire contemporary designs. With its YAP installation wrapped up, the firm is moving on to tackle several architectural projects it had in the pipeline prior to winning the prize.

Frida Escobedo

Among the best known Mexico City–based architects is Frida Escobedo, a graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and the Arts, Design, and the Public Domain program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She began her namesake firm in 2006 to much acclaim. The practice is known around the world for its critically engaging architecture: Escobedo’s weighty plaza installation for the 2013 LisbonArchitecture Triennale and her dynamic reinterpretation of the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s home and studio stand out for their provocative embrace of rough materiality. In many ways, Escobedo, who cofounded her first firm, Perro Rojo, in 2003 at the age of 24, has been at the forefront of expressing the latent historical and stylistic tensions that define current architecture for years. The recent adoption and proliferation of her sensibilities among this younger group of designers prove she’s been right all along.


PACA is a dynamic group composed of a revolving door of collaborators that includes architects, designers, artists, biologists, and musicians. Founded by high school friends Carlos Maldonado and Juan Pablo Viedma in 2012, PACA’s industrial design sensibilities and collaborative organizational structure allow the firm to engage in a wide array of work in a variety of media, from pottery, furniture, and sculpture, to candy, short stories, and graphic design.

Lanza Atelier

Lanza Atelier, founded by Isabel Martínez Abascal and Alessandro Arienzo in 2014, embodies the multifaceted, holistic approach to design that defines many of Mexico City’s young firms. Their work combines fine, modernist-inspired precision and methodology with everyday materials. Arienzo, who was taught by Escobedo while at Universidad Iberoamericana and later worked in her office before cofounding Lanza, said of the firm’s methodology: “We try to be more than an architecture studio. We don’t like to specialize in any one thing. Instead, we like to specialize in thinking and taking all scales into consideration.”

Pedro & Juana

Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss, the designers behind Pedro & Juana, love to occupy contested territories, and describe themselves as “suspicious of ‘big ideas.’” Graduates of SCI-Arc and Delft University, respectively, the duo loves to jump scales. The work, which ranges from public installations and one-off productions to buildings, straddles a wide line between architectural, interior, graphic, and furniture design.

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Design Week Mexico announces cultural programming lineup

Design Week Mexico (DWM) has announced the programming schedule for its seventh annual showcase in Mexico City, Mexico. Founded in 2009 by Emilio Cabrero, Andrea Cesarman, Marco Coello, and Jaime Hernández, the multi-day, city-wide cultural event offers a wide array of exhibitions, conferences, installations, and film screenings. The design festival will take place between October 5th and 9th, with certain cultural programs, like the Museo Tamayo DWM Project, running through 2017. That exhibition will feature a three-dimensional installation in the museum’s Bosque de Chapultepec by a yet-to-be-announced invited designer. Past exhibitors for the Museo Tamayo DWM Project have included artist Tatiana Bilbao and landscape architect Pedro Sánchez Paisajismo. The festival’s Inédito exhibition will showcase emerging designers in the country’s contemporary design scene, complementing the ongoing Territorio Creativo initiative supported by DWM that helps young Mexican designers exhibit their work in foreign design fairs. DWM will host a series of special exhibitions at the Museo de Arte Moderno, including the works of Argentinian-Japanese artist Kazuya Sakai. Sakai lived in Mexico between 1965 and 1977 and the exhibition will feature works produced by the artist during his stay, with a particular focus on his Ondulaciones series, a body of work credited with introducing geometric abstraction to Mexico and inspiring the succeeding Geometrismo Mexicano style that came afterward. The works of great Mexican modernist furniture designer Don Shoemaker will be also celebrated in what is being billed as the first retrospective of his highly influential work. Shoemaker, born in Nebraska but ultimately settling in the Mexican state of Morelia, was prolific during his long career and is considered one of the greats of 20th-century Mexican design. Despite his high-ranking status in Mexico’s modernism scene, his works have mostly been celebrated and exhibited in private collections. MDW will also host a series of panel discussions and film screenings to support its cultural programming. The Design House installation will showcase the work of various designers and architects who have been invited to transform various spaces throughout an existing home with their works. The Creativity & Change forum will bring together experts in the areas of creativity, design, education, and sustainability to share ideas. And the Angela Peralta Theatre, designed by Mexican architect Enrique Aragón Echegaray and modeled after the designs for the Delacorte Theatre in New York and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, will screen a series of design-oriented documentaries. Following Brazil in 2013, the United Kingdom in 2014, and Italy in 2015, DWM will host Germany as its 2016 “Guest Country,” filling many of the festival’s design panels with German designers and artists. The fair also selected the Mexican state of Jalisco as this year’s “Guest State” and will exhibit traditional crafts and contemporary design from the state’s tapatia creative community. This year’s festivities coincide with Mexico City’s selection as the 2018 World Design Capital (WDC) by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID). The designation, announced at the ICSID’s 29th General Assembly in Gwangju, South Korea last year, represents the first for a city in the Americas and the sixth such designation, overall. Taipei, Taiwan is the 2016 World Design Capital. The price is awarded every two years to cities the ICSID believes display “a commitment to use design as an effective tool for social, cultural, economic and environmental development.” Cultural programming for DWM will run in tandem with preparations for the WDC celebrations, including the special participation of a delegation from Taipei’s design scene in MDW’s 2016 festivities. For more on DWM, see their website here.
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This three-sided concrete skyscraper can withstand earthquakes and stand for 2,500 years

In 1985 Mexico City suffered a devastating earthquake. Occurring in the early morning on September 19, the quake took the lives of more than 5,000 people. The earthquake's vibrations of the lakebed sediments beneath the city also destabilized its skyscrapers. Such was the devastation that one nine-story tower collapsed, its piles ripped from the ground. New building codes were implemented after the disaster and now Mexican architecture practice L. Benjamin Romano Arquitectos (LBRA), working alongside working alongside engineering firm Arup’s New York office, has produced an earthquake-resistant skyscraper designed to last 2,500 years.

Rising to 57-stories, Arup conceived pre-tensioned double-V hangers to brace the facade. According to a press release, in practice the skyscraper—named Torre Reforma (Tower Reform)—has an "inherent tendency to twist when subjected to lateral loads and wind" and "earthquake forces." While creating a signature aesthetic for the building, the hangers also provide visual reassurance of the its structural qualities.

Materiality was a key component of the design process for the tower. Arup said that the finish of the concrete was "critical"; the firm evaluated numerous design mixes. Their final choice resulted in a smooth surface, free from honeycombing or other flaws. Poured in increments of 27 inches, the finish highlights the color variations that are commonplace in similar types of pours.

In addition to its tectonics, the building's circulatory aspects were another area of focus. With a triangular floor-plan, LBRA strayed away from using the central core that's norm in skyscrapers. At Torre Reforma, the elevators and egress stairways are contained in the apex of the triangle. Long-span pyramidal floor trusses facilitate concealing the building's services. These trusses also enable dramatic column-free interiors and sweeping views of the city and the nearby Chapultepec Park.

Additionally, Torre Reforma is a pre-certified as a LEED Platinum Core and Shell project, as it makes use of various water conservation systems and a combination of automated and passive ventilation systems to moderate temperature.

"Arup has been indispensable in helping to transform my architectural vision into an efficient and buildable structure," said Benjamin Romano, Principal of LBRA, in a press release. "They have provided innovative solutions to the complex seismic issues in Mexico City and have been instrumental in helping the bidding contractors understand that Torre Reforma is not more complex than standard vertical construction; it just applies traditional construction methods, that contractors are already familiar with, in a new and different way."

Tabitha Tavolaro, Associate Principal at Arup and project manager for Torre Reforma, added, “Building tall structures in Mexico City often means working in constrained conditions. Challenges can include small or irregular sites, coordinating diverse teams, and, of course, seismic hazards. In this project, we partnered with LBRA to create robust solutions that bring value to the client as well as the community.”

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Facades pro Hagy Belzberg to architects: bring engineers on board sooner

Architects have long relied on engineers to help execute formally or functionally complex concepts. But, as Belzberg Architects founder Hagy Belzberg points out, "architects usually work out a schematic design" in response to a client's needs, "only later to invite the engineer to help substantiate their idea." Belzberg's own experience collaborating with facade engineers at Arup suggests a different approach—one in which the designers and consultants trade ideas and expertise from the very beginning. With Arup's Matt Williams, Belzberg will outline some of the benefits of a close association among AEC industry professionals through two cutting-edge case studies at next week's Facades+ LA conference. Belzberg and Williams' dialog workshop, "Process Shaping Design: Design, Digital Fabrication, and Delivery" is organized around two projects with distinct origins. The first is the Gores Group Headquarters (9800 Wilshire Boulevard) in Los Angeles. "The building will be a case study in how adaptive facades can help us reappropriate existing buildings so we don't have to knock them down," said Belzberg. Digital fabrication technology, he explained, allowed Belzberg Architects to craft a new envelope that is "highly sculptural and unique, but still performative." The second case study examines a series of commercial buildings in Mexico City. "It's the same digital fabrication on a new building," said Belzberg. In contrast to the more typical approach, Belzberg Architects brought Arup on board before touching pencil to paper (or hand to computer mouse). "What we're trying to promote is a case study in which we brought in the engineers on day one, so it becomes more performative, more efficient, and even more cost-effective," said Belzberg. Besides sharing some of their own work, Belzberg and Williams hope to use the workshop to dig into other examples—cases contributed by the participants themselves. "No one's going to have to do any homework, or any sketches," said Belzberg. "But we want people to come in with case studies of their own that we can work on: Not just questions and answers, but we're hoping that other architects will bring real-life scenarios so that we can brainstorm opportunities. It's not just about our work, but an opportunity to discuss audience case studies." To sign up for "Process Shaping Design" or another lab or dialog workshop, register today for Facades+ LA. Learn more and review the symposium agenda on the conference website.
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Enrique Norten opens a campus of intersecting volumes for Mexico City's CENTRO University

On September 29, CENTRO, a Mexico City university that specializes in creative studies, inaugurated a new campus designed by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos. Located on Avenida Constituyentes, not far from Chapultepec Park, Norten's new campus packs an interdisciplinary mix of interior architecture, film, industrial design, and digital media programs into 78,700 square feet. Landscape architecture firm A Pleno Sol worked with TEN Arquitectos to add some 27,000 square feet of landscape and planted roofs. The 2,500-student CENTRO was founded in 2004 by Gina Diez Barroso and Abraham Franklin and focuses on the intersection of the creative, business, technology, and science fields. The opportunity to design a complete new campus is rare enough, and Norten, who has designed other university buildings for Rutgers University, the Universidad Panamerica, and CIEAX, was honored to receive the Centro commission. “It is an amazing location, across from the park, right in the center of the city and our new big train station is coming in very close by, so it will be one of the best connected universities,” said Norten. While the campus has expansion plans to accommodate up to 6,000 students, it is, according to the architects, also one of the first campuses built to LEED Platinum standards. Norten’s design embraces a Bauhaus-like program, where four building volumes intersect and connect to bring together all departments and programs. The heart of the campus is an exterior 10,000 square-foot monumental stair designed in collaboration with Mexican artist Jan Hendrix. Stairs are a dominant feature of the campus, according to Kerstin Scheuch, general director of CENTRO. “The different ways to go up and down and around it does something in your mind that there is not just one way,” she explained. “There are so many ways to circulate in this building and I think that is hugely important about how we feel about the program and opens up the communication among people.” Other amenities include a 400-seat, state-of-the-art auditorium and a 7,000-square-foot interior courtyard that links classroom and office buildings. An intentionally minimal palette allows students to “make the building their own,” according to Scheuch. Students from all disciplines are invited to participate in the evolution of the campus. For now it is most evident in the signage and graphics on the building and benches that line the main courtyard. Founder Gina Diez Barroso believes that the design of the new campus contributes to Centro’s pedagogy. “Everything connects because the curriculum is interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary,” she noted. “I think the more they live in it the more they will want to interact.” Scheuch agreed, “All things creative can happen here.” For Barroso, the creative spark happened eighteen years ago when she first met the architect. Norten was part of the conversation about the school from the beginning vision. “I think this project was much more than an architectural project for Enrique, it was like his baby,” she explained. “He is actually a shareholder in CENTRO; he is my partner and my friend and he believes in everything we are going to do.” Norten is the also the recipient of the 2015 Neutra Award Medal, which will be presented by Cal Poly Pomona on October 26.