Posts tagged with "Mexico":

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Designing the Border Wall?

Recently, Archdaily announced, on behalf of the Third Mind Foundation, a competition called “Building the Border Wall.” Perhaps in response to emerging criticism about the ethical implications of such a call to architects, the competition website later added a question mark to the title, changing it to “Building the Border Wall?” Since the competition was announced, as noted by Archdaily, several other edits have been made to the competition website, creating some controversy about the clarity of the competition’s agenda, the position of the organizers, and moreover, the moral implications of the competition itself. What further raises questions about this competition is the organizers’ insistence that they are “politically neutral” to the issue of building a wall along the border and that wish to remain anonymous. The primary question that this competition raises is: Is participating in a design competition for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border a good idea? The competition echoes, and perhaps has been prompted by, presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proclamations that he will, if elected, begin “building a wall” along the border. While his declaration seems to excite his audiences as if, finally, someone will build a wall, his call to construct a barrier exemplifies the ignorance of the realities along the border where approximately 700 miles of single, double, and triple walls are already built. This is not one single stretch of wall, but still, approximately one third of the 1,954-mile-long border between the U.S. and Mexico has already been walled off. Historically, there have been several approaches to architects engaging in the building of walls. For the most part, architects and designers have steered clear of this issue. In 2006, The New York Times called on 13 well-known architects to redesign the border wall. Architect Ricardo Scofidio commented, “It’s a silly thing to design, a conundrum. You might as well leave it to security and engineers.” Diller Scofidio + Renfro and several other architects declined the challenge altogether because they felt it was a purely political issue, something from which many architects shy away. However perfunctory—and sometimes offensive—many of the proposals were (Antoine Predock suggested a 300-foot-wide hot plate buried under the desert floor to discourage crossings and a massive rammed-earth wall to be constructed in the hot sun by “Mexican day laborers”), some proposals did scratch the surface in recognizing the inherent opportunities of the existing wall as a possible armature for design. In its current state, the wall ignorantly bisects many culturally and environmentally rich places. Therefore, perhaps design offers the potential for the wall to be transformed into a variety of interpretations and applications, ideally ones of benefit to borderland residents. The reality is that the U.S.-Mexico wall in its current manifestation has created a territory of paradox, horror, and transformation on an enormous scale. The wall divides rivers, farms, homes, Native American lands, public lands, cultural sites, wildlife preserves, migration routes, and a university campus. The construction and maintenance costs of wall construction that is called for by The U.S. Secure Fence Act of 2006 have been estimated to exceed $49 billion over the next 25 years. And while recent statistics show a 50 percent drop in the number of people caught illegally entering the United States from Mexico over the past few years, human rights groups put the number of deaths during attempted crossings at its highest since 2006, and nearly 6,000 people have died attempting to cross the border since 1994. Noam Chomsky has said that “the U.S.-Mexican border, like most borders, was established by violence—and its architecture is the architecture of violence.”  It has been suggested by many in the discipline, that architects should emphatically refuse to participate in the design of architecture that promotes violence. For example, in 2013, Michael Sorkin wrote an essay for The Nation calling on architects to refuse to participate in the design of prisons for several reasons: Disgust with the corrupt enthusiasm and extravagance of our burgeoning ‘prison industrial complex;’ objections to our insane rates of incarceration, our cruel, draconian sentencing practices and the wildly disproportionate imprisonment of minorities. Designing spaces of confinement and discipline is also contrary to what most architects imagine as their vocation: the creation of comfortable, humane, even liberating environments. The parallels between prisons and the “border industrial complex” are easy to imagine, but can the design of a wall create humane, or even, liberating environments? Architect Lebbeus Woods offered a different approach toward that end. In his project The Wall Game, Woods concluded that the only way to address an architecture of violence, and in this case he is addressing the Israeli Separation Barrier, was to design a means to dismantle it through a complex set of rules that direct architects and builders on both sides to attempt to create a series of constructions on the wall that eventually force it into an imbalance that theoretically topples the wall. So what are architects to do about the conundrum of the border wall? Do they ignore the issue all together or actively protest in refusal to participate? Do they strategize how design might dismantle the existing wall, or re-think the potential of the existing wall as an armature for correcting problems with it? Should they take on the challenge of designing new walls? Ignoring the issue entirely and designing new walls, are perhaps the most contentious strategies. Wall design and construction will, without question, continue, but should it continue without the input of architects? Does not participating in the design of the wall make architects as complicit in its horrific consequences as does participating in its design? Now that we are aware of the costs to taxpayers as well as the cost in human lives, it is urgent that we take on these questions. Re-envisioning the existing walls as well as walls-yet-to-come as something other than an architecture that exacerbates the violence that institutionalized its presence and transforming the wall into an infrastructure that can be put to work in other ways, is more necessary now than ever before. In its current form, it reflects the inflexibility of an ancient strategy of a wall as a singular means of security. Instead, it could be reimagined not only as a security measure, but also as a productive infrastructure that contributes positively to a borderland ecosystem, breaking the cycle of violence from where it comes. For example, coupling the wall with a viable infrastructure that focuses on water, renewable energy, and urban social infrastructure, could be another pathway to security and safety, both in the border communities and the nations beyond them. According to the United States-Mexico Health Commission, three of the ten poorest counties in the United States are located in the border area, and two of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States—Laredo and McAllen—are located on the Texas-Mexico border. Due to rapid industrialization, communities on the Mexican side of the border have less access to basic water and sanitation services than the rest of the nation. A commitment to multifunctional water, solar, environmental, and social improvements on the border, with the wall itself as the vehicle of delivery, would require that a portion of the vast investment of taxpayer dollars in capital expenditures be maintained. Instead of a future scenario in which walls are dismantled solely in the name of freedom and democracy, the walls designed in response to a much-needed investment in some of the most impoverished and fastest-growing regions in the U.S. might remain, as would our investment in them, to become the armatures upon which the possibilities of a post-border wall world can be grafted. Whether Trump is elected or not, it is time to advocate for a reconsideration of the wall. And rather than an embargo on Mexico, which, as Trump believes, will force Mexico to build it, we must end the embargo on multifunctional design at the border. Advocating for a reconsideration of the wall at the border is not an endorsement for the construction of more walls, nor should it give wall builders a greater reason for building them. Rather, if design—if architecture—can be smuggled into the creation and re-imagining of the border wall now, it will put into place several very important conditions that will affect the future of the landscapes, cultures, and bio-ecologies that it now divides. There is one more strategy that architects should consider if they take on the challenge—if an appeal is being made to tear down this wall, as others have demanded it, then what replaces it in the future must absolutely be designed now.
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Is the pod lifestyle on its way back? Fernando Romero thinks so

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has brought back pod living after a 50 year hiatus from the architectural mainframe. Looking like an export from Mars, a new design for pod living by Mexican architect Fernando RomeroThe Nest Pod, is a new take on an old concept.

Working in collaboration with developer Robbie Antonio as part of Revolution Precrafted, the pod concept envisions 1960s modular micro-homes in a new stylish contemporary format. Joining Antonio on board with the project is Zaha Hadid, Sou Fujimoto, and Daniel Libeskind.

Romero aimed to reinvent the versatile modular pod living space. Using geometric guidelines and forms found in nature, Romero said that The Nest Pod "provides passive shading on its most vulnerable sides."

Occupying 1,022 square feet, the humble dwelling is divided along its North-South axis, allowing the space to be naturally ventilated. Nearly all the pod's components are prefabricated, making it easily constructed on site.

https://vimeo.com/148989702 (Courtesy Fernando Romero) (Courtesy Fernando Romero)

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This Mexico City apartment building by Arqmov responds to city life with its facade design

Colonia Condesa, a Mexican neighborhood renown for its social scene, commercial activities, and nightlife, has received a new apartment building, Just BE, by Mexico-based design firm, Arquitectura en Movimiento (Arqmov). The apartment building resides on the same street as the Cultural Fund (Fondo de Cultura) and the Bella Época theater, both icons of Colonia Condesa. Arqmov focused on the neighborhood's social life and urban activities to produce open residences and public space. JustBE is on the corner of Benjamin Hill Avenue, a larger circulation street for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, and Calle Reynosa, a narrow street with only residential access. Arqmov applied this contrast to the two street-facing facades. On Benjamin Hill Avenue, the facade uses a wooden lattice to appear partly transparent, and on Calle Reynosa, the apartments have long balconies and full-height glass curtain walls. According to Arqmov, JustBE was inspired by "huacal," a wooden box popularly used in the area's street life. "This element suggests enclosure and isolation and, at the same time, the openness and movement characteristic of a market on wheels," explained the firm. Arqmov was required to meet a minimum open area, which they responded to with two voids in the structure: first, an open staircase and, second, balconies facing the Cultural Fund. The two voids also ensure each apartment receives ventilation and natural light from all directions, Arqmov claims. At night, each corner's red tiled wall lights up to invite the public to sit on wooden cubes. Arqmov said in terms of the public space, "It is interesting to watch passers-by, whether on foot, by car or bike, interact with this space and with the active context surrounding it."
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Plan uses solar, algae to transform the Tijuana River into sustainable infrastructure

All the chatter may be around Frank Gehry and the Los Angeles River, but that waterway is not the only channelized river on the West Coast. More than 40 years ago a 10.5-mile long stretch of the Tijuana River was concretized as a flood control channel to make more development possible. If Gehry’s scheme is all about hydrology, a new proposal for the Tijuana River is about electricity. René Peralta and Jim Bliesner’s scheme for an energy farm combines large arrays of solar panels with an algae system to remediate the water headed for the Tijuana River Estuary and the Pacific Ocean. According to Peralta, the system would produce enough megawatts to power 30,000 homes or a 112-acre industrial park. The plan came out of a class developed as part of UC San Diego Urban Studies and Planning Program, where both men teach. Additionally Peralta directs Woodbury University’s Landscape + Urbanism Master of Science program and Bliesner leads the nonprofit Center for Urban Economics and Design. While generating power is important, the pair see overall regional sustainability as critical goals. According to a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune, they’ve presented their work at the environmental conference Green Tijuana-San Diego Verde and have spoken to North American Development Bank. Their preliminary analysis suggests that the solar panels could help decrease the current heat island effect impacting Tijuana’s dense urban neighborhoods by lessening solar radiation in the summer. They also proposed a partially roofed section of the river to create shade over the brutal concrete channel. Other potential infrastructural upgrades would include tree grids on top of the canal and floating algae pools that would sequester CO2 levels generated by vehicle emissions (the canal is flanked by roadways). Although the project is in preliminary stages and still needs governmental support, it offers a much needed “hack” in the face of ecological and social costs in Mexico. Or as Peralta told Sandra Dibble of the Union-Tribune, “[Tijuana] does not have the luxury of reinventing the river to what it once was.” He noted that the solution comes from “hybridizing its old infrastructure with new technologies.” It’s about teaching an old channel some new tricks.
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Rojkind Arquitectos designs jagged waterfront concert hall to boost Mexico’s reputation as a music and cultural hub

Capitalizing on the recent rise of Boca del Rio's cultural profile, construction has begun on a new waterfront concert hall in Veracruz, Mexico. The Foro Boca will house the Boca del Rio Philharmonic Orchestra, formed last year to incite interest in the region as a cultural and musical center, and kickstart a masterplan to regenerate the local architecture. Positioned as an antidote to the area’s rising crime and pollution levels of the last 20 years, the concert hall by Mexico City–based Rojkind Arquitectos includes an 850-seat concert hall, rehearsal space, music library, and offices. The striking concrete edifice of jagged volumes fronts the breakwater between the mouth of the Jamapa river and the Gulf of Mexico, its geometry referencing the adjacent jetty. The tallest of these volumes houses the concert hall. Visitors enter the building through a triple-height lobby, which leads to the music halls and the library. The 50,000 square foot building will also have a 150-seat chamber music room to host monthly chamber music concerts, while an after-school choral and musical program for low-income children will also be held. On the third floor is a terrace with sweeping views of the ocean and river. Foro Boca’s location converges with Avenue Zamora, which is lined with local restaurants, and is being eyed as a potential catalyst for local gentrification. “The building appropriates the timeless expression of the concrete cubes formed by ripraps in the breakwater, assimilating them as its origin and reinterpreting them in a building made of apparent concrete, forming various areas of volume that contain the concert hall,” said Rojkind Arquitectos founding partner, Michel Rojkind.
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Brooks + Scarpa’s Double-Skinned Research Center

Perforated steel and translucent glass balance privacy and pop.

For their Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) in Monterrey, Mexico, Metalsa, a global manufacturing firm that specializes in automobile and truck chassis, did not want just another factory. Rather, the laboratory and testing facility, located in a state-sponsored research park adjacent to the Monterrey airport, was to be a "showpiece," explained Brooks + Scarpa Architects principal Lawrence Scarpa, "not just for their clients but from a work environment point of view, and a sustainability point of view." Despite the many challenges inherent to building across the United States-Mexico border, the Los Angeles architects succeeded in delivering a LEED Platinum design wrapped in a striking double skin of translucent glass and perforated steel panels. The facility's uneven sawtooth profile is the product of both historical and contextual references. "They are an industrial company, and I always loved the old warehouses with the north-facing clerestories, designed back when there was no electric lighting," recalled Scarpa. "That was what I was thinking about before I even went to the site." His first visit to Monterrey confirmed his instinct. "The mountains there are really sharp and jagged like that—it was an immediate concept for the building," said Scarpa. Like their 19th-century antecedents, moreover, the clerestories provide daylight and allow hot air to accumulate high above the inhabited spaces, thus reducing reliance on artificial lighting and cooling. The resulting form had one major drawback, however. "The issue we were faced with was that the primary way you enter the building is from the west, so we would have a broad face in the worst possible thermal position," said Scarpa. To solve the problem of solar gain without sacrificing the sawtooth roofline, Brooks + Scarpa implemented a double skin with an outer layer composed of perforated steel panels. With a wraparound sunscreen in place, explained Scarpa, "we could have a translucent skin behind it, but could modulate light and heat gain."
  • Facade Manufacturer Kinetica
  • Architects Brooks + Scarpa, Homero Fuentes, Centro de Diseño (architect of record)
  • Facade Installer Kinetica
  • Facade Consultants SPID Ingenieros (engineering)
  • Location Monterrey, Mexico
  • Date of Completion 2012
  • System perforated steel panels, translucent glass
  • Products Tiger Drylac coated steel with anodized silver super polyester, fluted glass installed with 3M VHB tape and Dow Corning 795 structural silicone
Several factors influenced the perforation pattern on the outer skin. It began as an abstraction of Metalsa's corporate identity, said Scarpa, but evolved to respond to programmatic requirements. Perforations of different sizes and densities reflect the need for more or less privacy. Areas related to proprietary research and development are more opaque, while the office spaces cantilevered over the transparent northwest entrance benefit from the additional daylighting allowed by broader perforations. CMI's translucent inner skin of fluted glass refracts light, preventing glare from interfering with computer-based work. To prevent the occupants from feeling trapped in a windowless box, the architects carefully modulated the distance between the envelope's two layers. "When you're on the interior, it doesn't just look like a blank wall," said Scarpa. "When you're on the inside, you can't see through it, but you can see shadows move on the translucent surface." Designing for an out-of-country client is bound to produce hiccups, and the Metalsa project was no exception. For instance, Brooks + Scarpa had initially imagined that the auto giants would fabricate the perforated metal skin in-house, but turned to another supplier when disrupting the company's manufacturing flow proved cost-prohibitive. The architects nevertheless made the best of the situation, streamlining their vision to fit the situation at hand. "The technology that was available to us in Mexico is not overly sophisticated, so from the get-go we decided to take a more simplistic approach, utilizing a multi-layered skin," said Scarpa. "It was easy to construct, and it's not difficult to understand."
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Painting Palmitas: Artists in Mexico cover an entire hillside village in one enormous psychedelic mural

Pachuca, Mexico is hoping a psychedelic mural can cement the transformation of a once crime-stricken neighborhood to a safer, more unified community. The government-sponsored urban renewal project, called El Macro Mural Barrio de Palmitas, coated over 200 hillside dwellings in a vibrant layer of paint with striking results. The government teamed up with a local graffiti collective, Germen Crew, to create the hillside mural, bringing in local residents to help with the project. The project encompassed an estimated 65,000 square feet of facade in all, transforming the once unembellished exteriors with multicolored swirls in rainbow hues. Up close, the village streets appear coated in large blocks of color, but from a distance, the mural takes its unified form, cascading from roof to roof to create a striking image. “We are trying to create a movement,” said Germen Crew in a recent interview, “We are taking into account the history of the colony but also its present, its people. And when you come to the streets, you'll find the identity of the place, but the idea is also to create an iconic place for everything Pachuca.” Germen Crew's paintings intend to preserve the community’s culture and are created in a way that provokes a more positive outlook. “We are making the world we want to live in, a world where you work and offer talents for the benefit of the common good,” stated Mybe, co-founder of Germen Crew.
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Enrique Norten unveils expansion plans for Mexico City’s design & film school, Centro

Centro, a Mexico City–based design and film school, has just announced that Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos has been chosen to design a new expansion to its existing campus. Norten claims his design encompasses “Centro’s dynamic and inclusive atmosphere, with sustainable LEED structures, maximum accessibility between all facilities, optimal access to public transportation services and a central public park in a key urban development zone.” In addition, his plan will combine “interior studios and outdoor work areas” that will offer a variety of learning environments, allowing for fluid teaching methods and cross pollination between disciplines.” Built on Mexico City’s Avenida Constituyentes, the campus will feature a multifunctional auditorium and dramatic exterior staircase built by Dutch-born, Mexican-based artist Jan Hendrix, a four-story media library, a state-of the-art film studio and a series of workshop studios.
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Facades pro Michel Rojkind on value-added building envelopes

Known for their playful, cutting-edge facades, Rojkind Arquitectos are adept at transforming obstacles into opportunity. Founded in 2002, the Mexico City–based practice is regularly challenged with delivering a sense of cohesion to unplanned urban chaos. As the literal and metaphorical mediator between a building's interior and its context, the envelope is a crucial starting point for any such endeavor. "Our first approach is through digital design and local fabrication, depending on the geography of the project, time, budget, etc.," explained founding partner Michel Rojkind, fresh from the July 7 groundbreaking of the firm's Foro Boca concert hall in Veracruz, Mexico. "We research local craftsmanship to enhance the final results." Besides considering the more pragmatic elements of design and execution, said Rojkind, "We also try to question what a facade is, in terms of performance or how it can produce other areas that blur the line between building and [exterior]." For him, the most intriguing question facing contemporary designers and fabricators is: "How can facades bring added value to the project—not only in economic terms, but also as social innovation?" Rojkind will deliver the opening keynote September 10 at Facades+ Miami, the South Florida debut of the popular conference series on high performance building enclosures. Speaking of architectural conditions in the conference's host city, Rojkind—himself an old hand at designing for a hot, sunny climate—said, "I think there are great opportunities to really push for interior/exterior living connections and blur those boundaries. [We can] learn from the past while embracing future social interactions as a design [guide]." Hear more from Rojkind and other movers and shakers in the AEC industry, and participate in exclusive local field trips, at Facades+ Miami this fall. For more information or to register, visit the conference website.
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If swoopy renderings weren’t enough, now you can fly through Zaha Hadid’s first project in Mexico

In mid-May, AN wrote about Zaha Hadid's first project in Mexico—a sprawling, 981-unit housing complex in Monterrey. The Esfera City Center development appears as a series of interconnected, almost pixelated, mid-rise residential buildings that are centered around a communal green space. And now it has a slick video rendering that sheds new light on the project's design. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxReDJpqMMQ As with pretty much every Zaha Hadid project, the unveiling of Esfera City Center came with plenty of eye candy in the form of glossy renderings. But if those pictures left you wanting more, you're in luck! Hadid's team has also released a fly-through of the project that gives a closer look at the complex's apartments, gym, pool, and open space. Take a look at the video above for an in-depth look at Hadid's latest, inside and out. [h/t Dezeen]
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On View> Mexico City installation puts architecture on the sidewalk

Leave it to a pair of Brazilian architects to use reinforced concrete to reinvent small-scale urbanism. While North American designers turn to plywood and recycled palettes to create curbside seating, architects Fernando Falcón and Rodrigo Cerviño of the São Paulo–based practice TACOA Arquitetos shopped for rebar. Entitled Jardineira, Falcón and Cerviño’s installation is a cantilevered concrete planter and bench located on the busy Insurgentes Avenue in Mexico City. The work sits outside the architecture gallery LIGA, Space for Architecture on one of the city’s major thoroughfares. Founded in 2011, the gallery focuses on primarily on Latin American practices and Jardineira is the first time that an exhibition has left the 172-square-foot venue and directly addressed the street condition. The concrete installation mimics the existing street furniture, but with one exception: it tilts, seemingly dislodging itself from the sidewalk. “I knew it would be good when they wanted to bring in a structural engineer,” said architect Wonne Ickx, co-founder of LIGA and the architecture firm Productora. An emerging firm, TACOA believes that any work of architecture should serve as a pretext for interacting directly with the city. As their installation illustrates, they do this without abandoning disciplinary rigor or a formal language. The pair ground their work in the teachings of the Paulista School, the mid-century group of Brazilian architects that included Pritzker Prize–winner Paulo Mendes da Rocha and João Batista Vilanova Artigas. Designs from both architects are included in the current MoMA exhibition Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980While most would associate Brazilian architecture with the swoops of Oscar Niemeyer, the Paulista School embraced the grittier side of architecture with chunky, exposed concrete buildings. Similarly, Falcón and Cerviño find inspiration in the frictions and imperfections of urban life. Jardineira is on view at LIGA through August.