Fascinating story featured in the Reveries newsletter earlier this week:Guerilla Architects. In Mexico City, where some people may be poor but the building codes are light, a new generation of...
Fascinating story featured in the Reveries newsletter earlier this week:
Guerilla Architects. In Mexico City, where some people may be poor but the building codes are light, a new generation of mostly young architects is "beautifying blighted urban areas with bold designs," reports Carol Strickland in The Christian Science Monitor (3/25/05). The situation in Mexico City is very unlike that in the United States, where "strict oversight can hogtie" architects, "resulting in "cookie-cutter solutions and a lot of repetition in terms of the same firms getting the same types of commissions and using the same materials," notes Rick Bell of the Center for Architecture. "Our more litigious culture and [regulatory] agencies imbued with a sense of fiduciary and public trust mean [that] those who commission architecture aren’t willing to take chances," he says. In Mexico City, however, the scene is so unstructured that young architects commission their own projects: "They become their own clients and take their own risks," says Enrique Norten, a U.S.-based architect who dreamed up a show, "Mexico City Dialogues," to document the new "market urbanism" that’s happening in Mexico City. For example, a firm called Higuera + Sanchez bought "a dilapidated warehouse in Condesa, a neighborhood in transition to a trendy, alternative-lifestyle arena." The interior was gutted, creating "studio lofts — a type of housing that didn’t exist in the city — for young professionals, singles, and couples without children." The firm then "negotiated with banks to convince lenders that these units should be eligible for mortgages (At the time, new apartments were only two-bedroom units and mortgages were available only to traditional, two-income families with children.)" The project was innovative in yet another way, as the design featured a "communal space in the heart of the building … an interior patio." Javier Sanchez of Higuera + Sanchez, higuera-sanchez.com, explains: "To have an open courtyard protected by its own inhabitants makes it safe." Not only that, but the common area made fast friends of the residents, who like to have parties there. "By tiny steps, these buildings propose new forms of making urban life better," says Jose Castillo, curator of Mexico City Dialogues. "When the state is not able to provide infrastructure and required services, architects must develop strategies to meet the needs of citizens." He adds: "How to address through architectural practice issues of the environment, traffic, population density and social injustice is relevant anywhere." In fact, the applicability of "market urbanism" to "other megacities around the globe" will be the subject of a symposium to be hosted by the Center for Architecture, aiany.org, in New York in early May.