Mexico City Recon Sep06


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Mexico City Recon

In late August, Rob Hutchison and I took a reconnaissance trip, over five days, to Mexico City to determine the site for the Winter Studio design problem and to locate space for the students to do design work and for the classes’ seminar discussions.

It was a very successful trip in many way. We are very excited to announce the program will be renting a small studio desinged and used by Luis Barragan. The studio is located directly across the street from the Casa Luis Barragn, a UNESCO world heritage site. The studio is at the back of a large linear garden and has a roof terrace with views of the great roof-top collage of Mexico City. Two large rooms in the studio will allow for studio workspace as well as presentations/reviews. As an added benefit, we anticipate that we will be able to hold our midterm and/or final review in Casa Luis Barragan itself.

Dave Miller surveying the Barragan Studio


Studio Barragan


The site investigations took us to the Monumento a la Revolucion and to an abandoned chocolate factory in the working class neighborhood of Santa Maria La Ribera.  Although the large Racquet Club building located at the edge of the large plaza in which the Monumento a la Revolucion resides had great potential as an adaptive re-use project on a major civic square, we were in the end drawn to the ménage of raw industrial buildings in the chocolate factory complex. It is a labyrinth of masonry and concrete structures with a series of alleys that run through the block-deep complex connecting two adjacent streets. A wonderful covered public market space is a strong precedent example of the Mexico City industrial fabric and only a block away.


Santa Maria la Ribera Mercado, 2 blocks from selected studio site


Selected studio site in the Santa Maria la Ribera neighborhood


Internal street of selected studio site


Interior of building on selected studio site


While in Mexico City we also connected with Humberto Ricalde, a local architect and professor at the UNAM, Mexico’s famous national university, to discuss field trips for the studio around Mexico City. We have tentatively set up trips to Tepotzlan (directly south of Mexico City), a small village known for the numerous monastaries and convents which surround it; and  to Taxco, a small city southwest of Mexico City known for its siver mines and historic architecture.   We also discussed an extended trip to Oaxaca, an amazing historic town with a new central mixed-use building designed by well-known architect Mauricio Rocha. Numerous day-trips to architectural and archaeological sites are being planned as well. Just before lunch with Humberto he took us to Mauricio Rocha’s studio where we were given a presentation by Mauricio’s associates of some of the powerful new projects on the boards. The day ended at a local spot for Humberto’s 70th birthday party celebration.


UNAM Biblioteca designed by Juan O’Gorman


House made of volcanic rock, near Tlayacapan south of Mexico City


Of course our investigations took us to several local and colorful cantinas for lunch as well as evening strolls through the beautiful Condesa neighborhood – site of many fine modern projects including several by Javier Sanchez who co-taught the Mexico studio last spring with Rob, and who will be involved with the winter program as well.  All-in-all a fine preview for the upcoming Winter Studio in Mexico City.

Interested students should plan to attend the information session on Friday, September 28 (room TBA). Please note this will be the only information session, as applications will be due a week later!

Dave Miller at Cantina La Perla in Santa Maria la Ribera


Eduardo & Rob


Written by David Miller, who is Chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington and teaches graduate design studios and a graduate lecture course on architectural design development. He is a founding Principal with the Miller/Hull Partnership, Architecture & Planning, designing commercial, institutional, and residential projects.






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