Delirious Mexico City
Ruben Gallo’s succinct description of one of the world’s largest metropolises could not be more apt. Mexico City, consisting of over 20 million people residing on a drained lake bed at an elevation of 7,500 feet, is a perfect example of a city built where none should have ever been. The city is plagued by earthquakes, active volcanoes, stagnant air, a shortage of drinking water, and frequent floods. If that were not enough, this ‘seething city’ built on a lake bed is sinking. What better place could there be to learn about the relevance (and irrelevance) of architecture?
Perhaps the above description is one reason why Mexico City has received a ‘bad rap’; few Americans bother to even think about visiting the city. Yet what astounds those who do is the incredible vibrancy of the city; the mix of colonial and contemporary architectures collaged with Pre-Columbian archaeological sites; the dance clubs (La Perla), museums, art galleries, restaurants, and taco stands; what must be one of the world’s cheapest but most efficient subway systems; and perhaps most importantly (for without them the city cannot exist), the beautiful residents of DF.
The 2012 Mexico Studio commenced with an intensive 2-week stay in Mexico City DF. Central and critical to the studio is the involvement of Arquitecto Javier Sanchez, principal of JSa. Over the last 15 years Javier’s work has largely dealt with urban interventions focused on housing and public space, and the premise of the studio was based on his past and current work in the City. Numerous other individuals provided their valuable time and commitments to the studio, introducing students to the culture and architecture of the city, and serving as invaluable critics and reviewers. These individuals included Humberto Ricalde, Paloma Vera, Mauricio Rocha, Felix Sanchez, and Eduardo Basurto, amongst others.
The studio has selected the Atlampa neighborhood as the site for investigation and intervention. Atlampa is a waning industrial area of the city located a mere 20 minute walk from the Zocalo (Centro) of the city. Ten years ago a high speed rail line was constructed directly through the center of the neighborhood, dividing the west side from the east. The sites are specific to Mexico City, yet equally relevant to contemporary urban issues. This studio uses the rail line as the site for intervention. How can public space bridge this wound in the city? How can urban space be reconnected?
‘A Day with Javier Sanchez’ chronicles a ‘typical’ day during our stay in Mexico City. With Javier as our guide, we toured the historic neighborhood of Santa Maria La Ribera, traversed the surreal neighborhood of Atlampa (our site); regained strength at Cantina Montejo; visited two of Javier Sanchez’ residential projects; sipped Mezcal at the rooftop deck of Condesa DF (also a JSa project); ate tacos at El Califa; and danced at La Perla.
Robert Hutchison, Program Director
A taco stand on our site in the Atlampa neighborhood of Mexico City.
Design charette at Javier Sancez’s office with students from Universidad Iberoamericana.
Standing outside Casa Barragan with Mexico City architect and professor Humberto Ricalde, waiting for the earthquake to pass…
A trip to the UNAM and Juan O’Gorman’s library.
The National Museum of Anthropology on a sunny day.
Construction site visit to Ensamble Studio’s Teatro Cervantes.
A bunch of the group at the Teotihuacan site.