Intro : Sunday, February 10th, marked our 5th week in Mexico City! Here is a sampling from the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!
January 26 – Hacienda Coahuixtla
Hacienda Coahuixtla is a site riddled with history. It was originally a sugar cane and alcohol factory built in the 1600s, then destroyed by the Mexican Revolution fires of 1910. It was a harsh place where workers withstood terrible conditions. It also housed a wealthy family, and a once lavish hacienda stands at the top of the site. Today, the buildings rest and slowly decay. The mayor of the town owns the land, but the people of the area stay to protect it from the government. It holds the legacy of Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata who grew up nearby, and conquered the factory in his initial adversary against the oppressors and the corrupt. He used Hacienda Coahuixtla as a post for his army. The land is beautiful, the crumbling buildings – even more beautiful.
January 26 – Xochicalco
The name Xochicalco can be translated as “in the (place of the) house of Flowers”, located 38 km southwest of Cuernavaca. Xochicalco was founded in about 650 AD by the Olmeca-Xicalanca, who are a Mayan group of traders from Campeche. It is thought to be a land where artist and tradesmen settled due to its strategic location and incomparable views on all sides to make their craft and then travel back and forth from Xochicalco to trade it. At some point around AD 900 the city of Xochicalco was burned and destroyed. Many of the excavated houses and temples still have layers of burning and destruction that cover adding to their mystical allure.
January 29 – Student work
This week the students revisited the La Cubana site. We are humbled by the beauty of what exists, weathered brick facades, large open spaces spanned by delicate trusses, intimate courtyards, and an overgrown natural landscape navigated by a crumbling alleyway that connects the spaces of the site. The afternoon was spent investigating our buildings, each student has taken on a specific portion. This studio is about adaptive reuse, and for many of us, our first opportunity to explore the subject. The challenge is creating a meaningful relationship between new and old, and understanding existing structural systems.
January 31 – Tatiana Bilbao
After attending Tatiana Bilbao’s lecture in Seattle we were all looking forward to seeing her in person. Visiting her firm was a breath of fresh air. Tatiana is a dynamic, versatile, driven and talented woman, with work that restores your faith in humanitarian architecture. The office work culture is such that every budding architect would kill to be a part of. There is the Management pyramid like most firms, but every person in the office gets to work on every aspect of the project making it a well-rounded learning experience. I am sure her passion for Mexico and conviction in her beliefs left us all moved and motivated.
January 31 – Ortega and Barragan House
Luis Barragán was trained as an engineer, but became a self-taught architect. He made use of a pre-existing building and created the Ortega House, eventually taking residence in 1943. Three years later, the Barragan House was built where it became the house and studio representing much of his outstanding creative architectural work where the integration of traditional, philosophical and artistic attributes merged both modern and traditional influences. Its impact was profound on the design of garden and urban landscape design.
January 31 – Art Exhibition
The show featured the most recent work from Swedish artist Oscar Berglund. Main media included mirrors, oil, and tape. “The media is in itself the object of contemplation; the goal is to look at the painting, instead of what is in the painting.” – Oscar Berglund
February 1 – Satellite Towers
The Towers of Satellite City by Luis Barragan and Mathias Goeritz lie on the outskirts of Mexico City, constructed in 1957. Five monoliths stand in the middle of a heavily trafficked highway. It is tricky to access but absolutely necessary for 15 architecture students, so over the highway and onto the scaffolding we went, on our way to an architectural fairytale.
Walking amongst the towers is like trekking with giants. The concrete pillars act as barriers to sounds and light, and when sheltered from the surroundings it is a pleasure to get lost in the personal space that is created. The towers change shape from every perspective, they stand as triangles but from certain angles appear as flat planes. The color and the texture vary too, originally intended to be painted a deep orange, the commission settled on red, yellow, blue and two shades of white.
February 1 – San Miguel de la Allende
San Miguel de Allende is a town with a beautiful history that is clearly seen as the essence of the place. At the beginning of the 20th century it was in danger of becoming a ghost town. Its Baroque/Neoclassical colonial structures were “discovered” by foreign artists who moved in and began art and cultural institutes. This gave the town a reputation, attracting artists such as David Alfaro Siqueiros, who taught painting. This fusion of cultures and knowledge has made this place a little treasure box of art, artifacts and colors and a get away from the pacific northwest weather for a lot of Americans who can be seen relaxing in the sunny courtyards here with their own little organic gardens.
February 2-3 Guanajuato
Guanajuato is a Unesco World Heritage founded because of the area’s silver and gold deposits. Its endless brightly-colored houses, cathedrals, and civic buildings are filled with tree-filled plazas. The city means “Place of Frogs” derived from the local indigenous language. While no frogs were seen on the trip, plenty of novelties were on sale at its beautiful mercado. The city is built on very hilly ground, so virtually every point in the city is on a slant and it’s not unusual to see roads turn into tunnels!
February 5 TOA
Several students went to visit Emiliano Garcia at Taller de Operaciones Ambientales, better known as TOA. They are a small but quite extraordinary firm with a diverse set of backgrounds that specializes in urban ecological design. Projects involving community process, river restoration, and their collaboration with Tatiana Bilbao on Botanical Garden Culiacan brought together such a great example of interdisciplinary work in practice.
February 7 Student work
This week in studio has been a mad dash to prepare for the midterm review. We have been working hard to refine the concepts, and move forward with building plans, sections, perspectives, physical and computer models. The studio has taken in a lot of Mexico City, visited renowned architectural works, and seen other cities. The work is changing because of this, and it will be interesting to see what the studio produces in comparison to our peers back home in Seattle.
Written by Sakshi Gupta, Erica Brissenden, Erik Murillo