Who are the names you need to know? Who are the designers to watch? These six up-and-coming talents in architecture and design should be on your radar. Alda Ly New York City Alda Ly likes a good piece of custom millwork. “I like to think about the purposefulness of each cut,” she says. Her namesake practice is built around a similar mission. “We’re pursuing end-user research to develop a more human-centered approach with our designs.” For Ly, both qualitative and quantitative data are imperative to design spaces that break the molds of conventional architectural programs. She designed the Wing’s private women-only professional clubs for flexibility, knowing that users might be recording a podcast on one day, and on another, working solo on their laptops. In this way, she sees herself beholden not only to the client, but also to the client’s stakeholders. Ly has made a name for herself by designing shared spaces, from incubators to offices and apartments. Most recently, the firm designed Bulletin, a store merchandising products from female-led brands that features a social area and a venue for live programming. “There are an infinite amount of situations you have to plan for, but a key point is knowing how to make people feel comfortable.” –Jordan Hruska Brian Thoreen LA/Mexico City “I didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Brian Thoreen. Reflecting on the first show where he unveiled his namesake furniture company at the Sight Unseen outpost during Collective Design in 2015, he admitted: “I was thrown in the deep end—I didn’t even know how to price the pieces.” Since then, Thoreen has gone on to show his works several times at Design Miami, create custom commissions, and be the subject of the first solo exhibit at Patrick Parrish. All of this was born out of his new focus on furniture and a recent move to Mexico City—both of which he was able to fully commit to after leaving his L.A.-based architecture practice, Thoreen+Ritter. In the context of “being somewhere else,” Thoreen now finds himself collaborating with local artists, including Hector Esrawe and Emiliano Godoy on a sculptural series of metal furnishings accentuated by hand-blown amorphous orbs of glass. The material will continue to be at the heart of his future work in a new studio, which he formed with Esrawe and Godoy to continue to collaborate their collaboration on glass and metal projects. As for his own studio, Thoreen also plans to design installations, spaces, and architecture where he can continue work with local artists. –Gabrielle Golenda CAMESgibson Chicago CAMESgibson is a Chicago-based partnership between Grant Gibson and the fictitious late T.E. Cames. Gibson, also a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Architecture, works at multiple scales, from small residential rehabs to a popular community arts center. The practice is not limited to conventional built work. Some of the office’s exhibition work includes a 20-foot-tall quilted column installed in the Graham Foundation foyer and a skyscraper design in collaboration with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. In each of its projects, a playful sensibility fills spaces with color and soft forms. A recent project involved converting a laundry room into a cool ethereal lounge for the UIC basketball team. Deep blue tones and carefully controlled lighting brand the space instead of the typical kitschy, logo-laden locker rooms of most teams. It is this approach to cleverly transforming spaces, whether they are institutional or private, that sets CAMESgibson apart from the average small practice. –Matthew Messner Material Lust New York City Partners in life and partners in practice, Lauren Larson and Christian Lopez Swafford are indifferent to mass production timelines and trends. Together, they work with artisans to conjure otherworldly objects that cross the boundary between sculpture and decorative art, producing a series of furniture with true grit. Known as Material Lust, their Lower East Side-based company was officially established in 2014 but began long before that. It has been producing works that reflect the historical context of design, including the Alchemy Altar Candelabra inspired by pagan and alchemical symbolism; and the Fictional Furniture Collection of gender-neutral, monochromatic children’s furniture inspired by surrealism. Now the pair is venturing into lighting with their new sister company, Orphan Work. As the story goes, it began when they found lost designs from the Material Lust archive and after they visited Venice’s Olivetti Shop, by Carlo Scarpa. The result? A collection that is somewhere between Scarpa’s richly layered forms and the couple’s unapologetically “metal” aesthetic, with nods to both the musical genre and the material itself. –GG MILLIØNS Los Angeles Los Angeles–based MILLIØNS dubs itself an “experimental architectural practice” that liberally explores space-making as a “speculative medium” that can be manifested in any number of objects, structures, or experiences. Founded by Zeina Koreitem and John May, the growing practice recently designed a communal wash basin that aims to reintroduce shared social interactions into the act of bathing for an exhibition at Friedman Benda gallery in New York City. In the show, a 3-D printed mass reveals itself as a fluted drum containing a sink and a slender, brass spigot that is approachable from all sides. Though better known for writing heady treatises and engineering glitchy, digital media works that use televisions and closed-circuit cameras to create new spatial dimensions, MILLIØNS has some more grounded works on the way. A forthcoming, Graham Foundation–supported exhibition designed and curated by the duo that aims to revitalize the experimental spirit of modernist housing, for example, is headed to L.A.’s A+D Museum early next year. MILLIØNS also has several brick-and-mortar projects on the way, including a retail storefront in Manhattan and a lake house in upstate New York. –Antonio Pacheco Savvy Studio NYC/Mexico City Savvy Studio, an interiors and branding firm with offices in New York City and Mexico City, has been busy this summer with an array of projects popping up in New York. It has just launched a Tribeca seafood restaurant (A Summer Day Cafe) which features a beachy interior with light woods, primary-colored metal accents, and of course, nautical stripes. The studio also redesigned Alphabet City mainstay Mast Books using plywood to elevate the space, making it a “gallery of books, rather than simply another bookstore.” And by combining interior architecture with visuals befitting a fashion campaign, Savvy Studio developed branding language, communications, and interiors of the rental offices and showrooms for the Mercedes House, a Hell’s Kitchen luxury condo designed by TEN Arquitectos. Founder and creative director Rafael Prieto points out that there are “no specific boundaries” between branding and interior design. “The reason we do both is based on our interest in creating and designing experiences, and being able to make an impact in every interaction.” For Savvy Studio, their multifaceted practice is about making sure each space or branded element is simultaneously “emotional, aesthetic, and functional.” –Drew Zieba
Posts tagged with "Mexico City":
Soon after Mexico City was designated to host the 1968 Olympics, the idea of a year-long cultural program emerged—one which would come to shape the ethos of the games for years to come. Hinting at the Greek Olympics’ legacy, the Mexican Cultural Olympiad would deploy 20 cultural events and projects throughout the year while promoting a modern discourse of peace at a time when the cold war profoundly divided the world. As part of the program, the Polish-born, Mexican artist and architect Mathias Goeritz (who coined the concept of “Emotional Architecture” with Luis Barragán) proposed an ambitious public sculptures route integrated with the city as a way to respond to its rapid urbanization. La Ruta de la Amistad (or the Route of Friendship), as it was named, would offer new ways of navigating the capital while making art available to the masses and celebrating international dialogue. The proposal was received with great enthusiasm from the chair of the Mexican Olympic Organizing Committee, the influential architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. In the lead-up to the Olympics, a total of 22 sculptures were commissioned from 19 artists and architects, including the Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca, the French artist Olivier Seguin, the American sculptor Alexander Calder, and the Mexican sculptor Ángela Gurría. Goeritz’s curatorial brief was simple: All sculptures should be abstract, of monumental scale, and use concrete as their main material. The project would become the largest sculptural thoroughfare in the world, connecting Olympics venues across a distance of 11 miles—and a great source of pride for Mexico. However, a week and a half before the official start of the games, the route, like the rest of the Cultural Olympiad, was obscured by the Massacre of Tlatelolco, in which the Mexican military and the police killed at least 300 students and civilians protesting government repression and corruption. Politicians, used to controlling every aspect of Mexican society, showed little patience for the demonstrations, which they feared would damage their cherished reputation as Olympics hosts. For the government, the games had become a platform to project its progressive, modern ideals and to challenge the perception that it was a developing country. Fifty years on, the sculptures stand neglected, in a state of near decay, like the remnants of a broken dream. “In Mexico, the route isn’t seen as something important. Not for the people, nor the government,” lamented Luis Javier de la Torre, president of Patronato Ruta de la Amistad, as he toured us around its principal site, now overshadowed by the infamous Periferico, a dystopic, elevated highway crossing the city. The organization he cofounded in 1994 with Javier Ramírez Campuzano (the son of Ramírez Vázquez) is in charge of conserving the sculptures and promoting their legacy. Prior to this, the route was largely abandoned and subjected to vandalism. The Patronato was able to restore and relocate a number of pieces at risk of deterioration, creating a centralized location composed of 13 works between 2011 and 2013. To mark the Route’s 50th anniversary, the Patronato is launching a number of activities with partner organizations on a shoestring budget. The Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes is opening an exhibition about it this October, scheduled to coincide with Design Week Mexico (October 10 to 15). Meanwhile, the official program of World Design Capital Mexico City 2018 has incorporated educational projects to bring awareness to the route. “Its values live on,” argued de la Torre. So why does the route fail to receive the public interest and support it deserves? According to de la Torre, a combination of a conflicted sense of national identity, a lack of understanding, and the collective trauma of 1968 are responsible. “We don’t have a proper identity as a country,” he explained, nodding to Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, a series of essays that discusses the existential tension between colonial and indigenous cultures in the country. “No one believed that as a society we were capable of running the Olympics in ways that would be replicated by others around the world,” he continued. Most important, the political turmoil associated with 1968 overbearingly shaped the country’s consciousness of that moment. “This is where the dream broke,” said Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, this year’s Serpentine Pavilion designer, when we visited her studio. At the recent Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans, Escobedo revisited the Ruta de la Amistad by presenting a reproduction of the metal frame behind the sculpture by Olivier Seguin. The precarious-looking, welded steel structure—now permanently installed at Le Parc Floral de La Source in Orléans, France—was inspired by an installation shot of the original work, which the architect discovered while visiting the archives of the FRAC Centre in France. “The picture presented the reality of 1968,” Escobedo recounted, reflecting on the ambiguous promise of modernism in the construction of Mexico’s national identity. “It’s all a spectacle.” “We haven’t been able to separate things,” explained de la Torre of the troubled legacy of 1968. “I think that now, there is an opportunity for both narratives to coexist.” But should the Olympics’ cultural legacy really be separated from its political context? Before the army opened fire at the crowd on October 2, 1968, anti-government protesters were chanting, “¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución!” (“We don't want the Olympics, we want a revolution!”)
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president-elect of Mexico, recently announced that the fate of the new Mexico City airport designed by Foster + Partners will be decided by a public referendum to be held in October of this year. Mexican citizens will be able to decide in a vote whether or not the airport should be canceled. López Obrador, or AMLO as he is also known, led a fiery campaign for president. He trumpeted leftist and populists messages while attacking corruption that he said was endemic in the Mexican government. The New Mexico City International Airport (NAICM) was, he said, mismanaged and marked by excessive and wasteful spending, and he promised to shut down the project if elected. López Obrador has proposed that an existing military airbase be converted to civilian use instead of completing construction on the new airport. The vote is scheduled for the last week of October even though López Obrador will not formally take office until December 1 of this year. The project, which was won by Foster + Partners in 2014, is well under construction, and stopping it now would mean losing about US$5 billion already spent. The project is estimated to cost US$13 billion in total, and its first phase has been scheduled to open in 2020. Foster + Partners' design features a massive undulating canopy with an exposed space frame underneath. In renderings, the roof surface allows dappled light to come through large open spans between large footings where the canopy touches down to the ground. Arup is the project's structural engineer, Mexican firm fr-ee is the local collaborating architect, and Grupo de Diseno Urbano is the landscape architect. The airport is planned to handle 66 million passengers annually and cover an area of approximately eight million square feet.
ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, established the ACADIA Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding individuals and practices that think critically about the impact and possibilities of computer-aided design. This year, the ACADIA Awards recipients, including Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative, will present their work at the conference titled Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City from October 18–20. Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture Mónica Ponce de León won the Teaching Award of Excellence. Ponce de León is a Venezuelan-American architect who is also a renowned educator. She is the founding principal of MPdL Studio, which has officesin New York, Boston, and Ann Arbor. Prior to her deanship at Princeton, she was dean of University of Michigan’s Taubman College and a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). The awards committee commended her for the “integration of digital technologies into architectural education.” Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler, partners at Oyler Wu Collaborative, were awarded with the Digital Practice Award of Excellence. The L.A.-based, award-winning firm is widely recognized for its expertise in material research and digital fabrication. The firm is known for projects such as The Exchange in Columbus, IN, the 2013 Beijing Biennale installation named The Cube, and their installations and pavilions with SCI-Arc. The partners are both currently teaching at SCI-Arc and Harvard GSD. Other awards included the Innovative Academic Program Award of Excellence, given to the Institute of Advanced Architecture Catalonia; the Innovative Research Award of Excellence bestowed upon NVIDIA robotics researcher Dr. Madeline Gannon; and the Society Award of Excellence won by Association for Robots in Architecture co-founders Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann. Check out the complete list of winners here.
The 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London, is now complete, and Mexico City-based Frida Escobedo’s open-air installation wears its references to residential Mexican architecture on its lattice. Escobedo, the youngest architect to take on the project and the first woman to do so since 2000, took cues from London’s historical materiality to reinterpret features more commonly found in Mexico’s domestic architecture. The pavilion uses a modern reinterpretation of the celosia (a perforated wall that lets in light and air) built from cement roofing tiles, to enclose a concrete courtyard. From the final photos, it appears that stacking the roof tiles have also given the walls a rolling, knit-like quality. The interplay between light and shadow and its use in denoting the passage of time, such as sunlight filtering through the darkly-tiled walls, had a major influence on Escobedo’s design. “The design for the Serpentine Pavilion 2018 is a meeting of material and historical inspirations inseparable from the city of London itself and an idea which has been central to our practice from the beginning: the expression of time in architecture through inventive use of everyday materials and simple forms,” said Escodebo in a statement. “For the Serpentine Pavilion, we have added the materials of light and shadow, reflection and refraction, turning the building into a timepiece that charts the passage of the day.” Inside, a curved canopy decked out in mirror panels hangs over the structure to both shade and reflect visitors, while a slice of shallow water on the ground reflects the scene overhead. Guests are invited to wade into the pool and cool off while their movements are echoed on the canopy above. Visitors can experience a “new” pavilion every day, as the sun’s daily movement should theoretically create a new lighting condition every day of the summer. The Serpentine Pavilion is located on the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery and will open to the public on June 15, then run through October 7, 2018. The pavilion will host a café for the duration, and will be used to stage Park Nights, the gallery's experimental and interdisciplinary art and architecture lectures and performances on certain Friday evenings.
Construction is set to begin on Reforma 432, a Foster + Partners-designed skyscraper in the heart of Mexico City that’s been snared by setbacks since 2011. According to a 2014 Foster + Partners description that pegged the tower at 866 feet tall, the Reforma 432 will dwarf the city’s current tallest building, the 807-foot-tall Torre Reforma. As first reported by Mexico News Daily, Mexican developer Abilia recently released a statement revealing that construction on Reforma 432 would begin soon and that the mixed-use tower would be split between luxury office space and commercial use. It’s certainly not an even split, with nearly 280,000 square feet set aside for offices and the remaining 20,000 square feet dedicated towards retail. Abilia’s owner, the billionaire businesswoman María Asunción Aramburuzabala, also announced that the updated scheme would be 57 stories tall, three more than Foster + Partners had originally described. Reforma 432 was first proposed in 2011 as the Sky Tower under developer Grupo Elipse, but seemed to have stalled out indefinitely until Aramburuzabala stepped in to take over the project. Located at the intersections between Paseo de La Reforma and Avenida Sevilla, Reforma 432 will sit on an L-shaped site directly opposite La Diana fountain, a city monument. Foster’s design for the tower is heavily striated, and two central vertical bands will run up the western and eastern sides of the facade. The building’s core will be set back towards the smaller portion of the L shaped-site, increasing the size of the floor plates in the larger section of the site. From the renderings, it also appears that the tower will carve out a story for communal outdoor space in the middle of the office floors. Covered, cantilevering terraces jutting from Reforma 432’s first four stories will hold retail components, restaurants, and cafes, while a bank, drop-off area, and entrances to both the offices and the commercial areas will be on the ground floor. This area will be intentionally left open as a publicly accessible plaza that bleeds into the surrounding streetscape. Foster + Partners is no stranger to building in Mexico City, as the British firm has teamed up with Mexican architect Fernando Romero to tackle the city’s new $9.2 billion airport, currently under construction. No start or completion dates for Reforma 432 have been announced as of yet.
How do you rebuild after a natural disaster? This question was the call to action at the fifth edition of the MEXTRÓPOLI Festival of Architecture and City that took place March 17 to 20. The four-day city-wide event was presented as an active reflection to rebuild since last September’s major earthquake that struck central Mexico. Coincidently marking the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the natural disaster in September last year hit hard on the same day three decades prior–at least 40 buildings collapsed, wreaking havoc in the Mexican states of Puebla, Morelos, and in the Greater Mexico City area. At MEXTRÓPOLI, temporary built environments activated Mexico City’s public spaces to promote reflection of those events and fuel sustainable future building. Twenty pavilions designed by institutions such as UNAM, Ibero Puebla, Anahuac University, Querétaro, Sci-Arc, and Maristas took up at Alameda Central, the oldest public park in the Americas located downtown, adjacent to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The goal? To inspire sustainable and preventative practices, and to demonstrate potential sustainable architectural futures. Architect Elias Kababie, Taller Paralelo Arquitectura, Michigan Architecture, and students from Colectivo Seis collaborated to design Pabellón ( ), a brick pavilion, with financial support from Masonite. The ephemeral structure is described by Kababie as a built testament to what local people felt in the aftermath of the quakes. “It creates an experience based on what we felt when everything was demolished,” explains Kababie. The structure itself was the very first built project for Colectivo Seis, who are only in their second year of college. As the story goes, on the first night of building the pavilion, the students and Kababie assembled the bricks made by a local factory and craftsman. The bricks themselves are made from locally-sourced clay, baked, and dried. Initially, they tried laying each brick one by one. Eventually, they made a rig that allowed them to stack eight bricks at a time. What took six hours to build on the first day took only one hour on the second. The trace of their handiwork lingers, with the red ochre-hued dust marking anyone who enters the pavilion. From the outside, the pavilion looks fortress-like, a cubic construction of six tiers of stacked brick on all four sides. Visitors were invited in by Kababie and the students through the periwinkle Masonite door into a narrow, tubular passageway. Once inside, onlookers are pleasantly surprised to find an undulating series of brick laid out to form the negative space of a circular sphere, or, if you will, an inverted oculus. The stacked formation encourages sitting and climbing, as well as spectacular views of the heart of Mexico City. Aptly dubbed, Pabellón ( ) is formally a parenthesis. Conceptually, it is a theoretical interpretation of the meaning of “collapse,” what students from Colectivo Seis described as the continuum of material and emotional rubble that was left behind after the quake. These experiences are collectively housed between the empty parentheses, the material manifestation of the symbolic namesake, the pavilion. “It’s a metaphor for the current situation. When you have this perfect brick wall that when you walk outside, you don't realize that there’s a greater structure, an emptiness that came about through the earthquakes. It’s still there and it hasn’t been fixed. We wanted this to be a point to talk about those aspects of our lives and that is still going on and many of us don’t realize it,” explained Alonso Varela of Collectivo Seis. This collective experience is not only expressed in concept, but also in practice. Kababie proudly reflects on their experience as completely collaborative, a project completed by a group from beginning to end as a group. “Having that extraordinary shared journey, the idea of idea of changing the conversation through bricks, through a situation, with a door that you go through, in a specific place as a specific project—it was an amazing idea.” You can find more videos of Mextropoli, Pabellón ( ), interviews, and other footage of the festival as a story highlight on AN's Instagram story highlights.
Starting March 21, the Americas Society will host the exhibition The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930. The exhibition is a leading feature of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an exploration of Latino and Latin American art across 70 cultural institutions in Southern California. Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is an initiative led by the Getty Research Institute, where The Metropolis in Latin America was previously on display. The exhibition presents a century-long narrative of six Latin American capitals: Buenos Aires, Havana, Lima, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile. Within this arc of time, these cities transformed from provincial seats of power in the Spanish empire to full-fledged republican capitals. This shift from Iberian urban regulations to independent national authority was expressed through a diverse set of novel and imported models of architectural design and urban planning. The cities of Latin America maintained most of their colonial structures until the mid-nineteenth century. The gradual adoption of modern architectural repertoires, coupled with massive rural migration to the cities, encouraged the removal of colonial-era vestiges in favor of new civic buildings, burgeoning residential quarters and centers of industrial production. Cocurated by Maristella Casciato and Idurre Alonso, The Metropolis in Latin America will display the dramatic transformation of these six Latin American capitals in a number of mediums, including maps, plans, prints and photographs. The historical scope of featured pieces range from Hernan Cortes’ Map of Tenochtitlan (1524) to the modernist utopia depicted in Le Corbusier’s drawings of the City of Buenos Aires (1929).
Mexico City-based architect Frida Escodebo has been selected to design the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in London, making her both the youngest architect selected for the commission, as well as the first solo woman to take on the project since Zaha Hadid in 2000. Escodebo, who AN profiled last year after her eponymous firm won the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award, has designed a perforated pavilion that draws on the architecture and materials of both Britain and Mexico. The pavilion is based around a central interior courtyard, a common feature in domestic Mexican architecture, and is made up of two rectangular volumes, one inside the other. The volumes will be angled to reference the Prime Meridian line at London’s Royal Observatory in Greenwich, with the pavilion’s exterior walls aligned to the Serpentine Gallery’s eastern façade, while the interior courtyard will align to the north. The walls themselves resemble celosias, a traditional Mexican breeze wall that allows air to pass through, and will be built from dark cement roof tiles, interplaying the light streaming in against the color of the pavilion itself. A curved overhead canopy, clad in mirrored tiles, will dialogue with a triangular reflecting pool below, which will be sunk into the pavilion’s north end. As the sun moves across the sky throughout the summer, visitors will be able to track the shifting of the shadows within and the sunlight’s refraction, as each day should theoretically bring a unique lighting condition. “The design for the Serpentine Pavilion 2018 is a meeting of material and historical inspirations inseparable from the city of London itself and an idea which has been central to our practice from the beginning: the expression of time in architecture through inventive use of everyday materials and simple forms,” said Escodebo in a statement. “For the Serpentine Pavilion, we have added the materials of light and shadow, reflection and refraction, turning the building into a timepiece that charts the passage of the day.” The temporary Serpentine Pavilion has been commissioned by London’s prestigious Serpentine gallery since 2000, and has drawn big names in architecture since its conception. This year, the pavilion will be open to the public from June 15, 2018 through October 7, 2018, and will continue to host Park Nights, the Serpentine Gallery’s experimental and interdisciplinary showings on select Friday nights. Escodebo, born in 1979, has made a name for herself lately in the exhibition and temporary architecture world, having shown work at both the 2012 and 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, and the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. For the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Escobedo built an interactive, round rocking stage.
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. Mexico City-based Fernanda Canales will deliver her lecture on March 8th, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. After studying architecture at prestigious schools in Spain and Mexico, Fernanda Canales quickly discovered that the rigorous techniques she had learned had little relevance in the real world. Since starting her firm, in 2002, she has opted for a more flexible, thoughtful, personal approach. “Instead of relying on formal, definite solutions, I try to give informal, indeterminate strategies,” said Canales, who has no office, no employees, and spends most of her time on construction sites, morphing her projects through constant observation and feedback. “I realized that my preparations didn’t match the reality of what clients want, what workers can do, the limits of budgets, and the reality of everyday life,” she said. The Bruma House, located on a rural site about two hours from Mexico City, began as a fairly typical home for a couple and their two children. But once her construction team began work, Canales realized that the project needed to better adapt to its lush landscape and to a climate that swung dramatically from day to night. Now, no rooms are directly attached, so every space has at least two windows, allowing for maximum natural light. The building meanders its way through the site, maintaining existing trees and plant life in the process. Since starting her firm, Canales has also shifted her focus to highlight the intermediate, often-neglected spaces between public and private. These, she noted, often have greater impact on the users and those living around the projects. The Portales Dwelling, a multifamily apartment in Mexico City, diverges from the city’s typical housing blocks, with their closed stairs, shut-off alleys, and unimaginative envelopes. Portales opens up in every place it can, with large balconies in front, uncovered patios in back, open stairs in between, and roof terraces above. “It addresses the beautiful climate of Mexico City, instead of ignoring it,” said Canales, who added that the addition of green and open spaces helps the development better fit into its context, minimizing the usual scorn from neighbors. With the Elena Garro Cultural Center, also in Mexico City, Canales converted a long-abandoned private manor into a public amenity. The first step was removing a large wall between the home and sidewalk, reinforcing that all were welcome. To further show the public what was inside the cloistered historic house, Canales created a large glass-walled addition in front, framed in concrete, exposing books and other amenities, which are surrounded by a series of updated gardens and courtyards. To keep her work as simple as possible, Canales generally avoids complex new materials, working often with concrete, which she values for its affordability, durability, and ease of use. “I go for what workers know how to do. It’s the most practical solution,” she noted. Her reading rooms, built for the Mexican Ministry of Culture for use around the country, are modular concrete structures that function as meeting and recreational spaces. Their perforated facades, which create an effect that Canales calls “social lanterns,” allow them to be easily built (without glazing or other complications) and their interiors to be visible from the outside, making them safer. Her careful, socially oriented approach, Canales pointed out, is not new, and she’s long been studying Mexican social housing—particularly its boom times, like the 1920s and 1950s. She’s soon publishing a book, called Shared Structure, Private Spaces: Housing in Mexico (Actar Publishers). “I can’t imagine doing without thinking or thinking without doing,” she said. “It’s all important research.”
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.
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.