Tag Archives: mexico

Museo Amparo

Museo Amparo in Puebla, Mexico, by Enrique Norten/TEN Arquitectos, 2013.

The following text and images are courtesy TEN Arquitectos.

Museo Amparo is located within the historical center of the city of Puebla. The museum is composed of various colonial buildings of great historical and architectural value. The museum holds a permanent collection of 4,800 pre-Hispanic pieces, some given by the INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) and others from private collections. There is another permanent collection of baroque art and one of contemporary art, including pieces from notable artists such as Javier Marín, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Vicente Rojo, Manuel Felguérez and Sebastián.

For the rehabilitation and resize of the building, TEN Arquitectos took into account the architectonic modernization of the spaces and of its museographic script. The new design updates the way of exhibiting and walking through the museum’s different collections; by adding a vestibule, we motivate the intercommunication between the collections, but at the same time they can be accessed and enjoyed independently. In the same way, we establish a new way to intercommunicate the museum’s services, so the public and private aspects could be separated and work more efficiently.

The creation of more temporary exhibition spaces helps the museum to stay at the forefront in its objectives of social, educational and cultural services. The project also undertook the modernization of mechanical, structural and media systems. Due to the history of the museum, its age, the different interventions, the constant use, its historical value, and the client ́s interest in preserving this legacy, it is important to renew, improve and determinate the current condition of the various MEP and structural systems. The architectural proposal includes the opportune maintenance of the entire building.

The project strives to benefit the user with the views from the roof of the building, through new terraces and gardens. Therefore, visitors will be motivated to know another aspect of the city of Puebla, showing them the magnificent views of the different domes, towers, churches and natural landscape that haven ́t been exploited previously in any other part of the city.

Photographs are copyright Luis Gordoa, courtesy of TEN Arquitectos.


Mini-Studio in Mexico City, Mexico by FRENTEarquitectura, 2011.

Behind a house in a middle-income section of Mexico City sat a storage shed, surrounded on three side by neighboring buildings. Into this gap FRENTEarquitectura inserted an art studio of only 27 square meters (290 square feet). The petite intervention appears jewel-like in its setting, a faceted object new and white.

Given that the building is intended as an art studio, minimizing direct sunlight is of the utmost importance. This consideration is aggravated by the fact that the studio faces the yard to the south. Therefore FRENTEarquitectura cantilevered the upper floor of the two-story volume, allowing the projection to shade the ground-floor space. Further, a skylight created by the folds of the roof channels northern light into the space.

Using trapezoidal shapes and with a careful control of perspective, vanishing points are emphasized, achieving a dynamic and fluid space that awakens imagination while stimulating creativity. -FRENTEarquitectura

Beyond considerations of daylighting, the design does a couple other major things: sliding glass doors on the ground floor link the studio with the yard, in effect extending the room for art to the outdoors (ideal for arts like pottery); and treating the second floor as a mezzanine creates a double-height space that is tied to sunlight but also the ability to craft large-scale artworks. The trapezoidal shapes lead to a space that even more complex than the site and exterior form would otherwise infer.

Of the images presented here, the construction sequence is most telling: It illustrates the tight space that the studio is inserted into and the difficulty in building in such a space. The brick and concrete construction is fairly traditional and inexpensive for the area, and given the confines of the rear yard, it's certainly more advantageous to work with bricks rather than steel beams and columns. It's a remarkable design that gives hope for people wishing to transform small spaces on a small budget.

Pabellon en el Bosque

Pabellon en el Bosque in Valle de Bravo, Mexico by Parque Humano, 2011.

For many architects a pavilion is a dream commission. Approaching pure sculpture, the broad typology departs from the stringent functions that define buildings like houses, schools, offices, and the rest. To be sure a pavilion has a goal, a purpose of some sort, but it is rooted in the hazy area between idea and experience rather than meeting particular functional requirements. Jorge Covarrubias and Benjamín González Henze of Parque Humano, the architects of this Pavilion in the Woods, hit upon this condition when they describe their project as "an inducement to participate in specific acts of memory, contemplation, and philosophical speculation."

Sited in an opening on a large plot of land, this small (80sm / 860sf) pavilion is aligned with the path of an existing pine tree alley. A glass wall with sliding panels greets people approaching the pavilion. Solid side walls flare out to another glass wall that can slide open to bring the outdoors into the single room. While a small extension of the floor is found at the entrance, the larger side connects to a stone terrace with an outdoor tub. This overlooks a clearing in the trees, a distant vista that situates the house within a much larger landscape.

Perception has no time spam, there is no acknowledgment of temporality, the art experience is pure. The observing subject is conscious of being part of a present, palpable, located in a specific time and reality. -Parque Humano

Reading the architects' words, the meditative sense of being present is a fusion of architecture and nature, specifically via the framing of a specific view. The architects supply a malleable space (open or closed or somewhere in-between) that opens towards a vista which encompasses one's field of vision. At least this is one reading, but certain things complicate this, such as the reflective nature of the interior surfaces and the bend in the exterior walls and roof. The former could be such so that the awareness of oneself is heightened; perception of the horizon is accompanied by reflections off the floor, walls, and ceiling. A fire in the simple circular pit in the floor would also be cast upon these surfaces, potentially drawing the inhabitant into the flames by being surrounded by them. Whatever the intention, the green color of the interior surfaces nevertheless draws it closer to the surrounding landscape.

The bends in the exterior walls and roof, on the other hand, serve to create a sculptural presence irrespective of what is happening inside. Only the roof's kink is sensed in the pavilion, as the ceiling rises and falls. This results in a framed view that is lower than if the roof and ceiling continued on the upward trajectory from the entrance; this view stresses the horizontality of the horizon, as well as the green and brown landscape over the blue sky. The bend in each wall confuses the flaring of the plan and provides extra space for storage and other uses. It also continues the bend of the roof to create a faceted form clad in a single material. While the pavilion's architectural functions may be limited to keeping the occupants warm and dry (and maybe clean and fed depending on what fills the voids in the side walls), the relative freedom allows the architects to focus on the simple act of being and looking. They've created a small building for just that.

Rajel Mikveh

Rajel Mikveh in Mexico City, Mexico by Pascal Arquitectos, 2010.

The following text and images are courtesy Pascal Arquitectos.

The Mikveh is the  ritual bath of purification in the Jewish religion. It is possible diving in fresh spring water, or in a place specially dedicated to it, fed by rainwater that must be collected, stored and communicated to the vessel that is called a Mikve. All this must be made under a very strict set of rules related to the degree of water purity. These rules also include the use of materials, architectural measures and water treatment. The Mikveh is mostly used by women once a month, and for the brides to be, for conversions and certain holidays. It is known to represent the womb, so when a person enters the pool it's like to return to it, emberging as if reborn. In this way, you get a totally new and purified condition.

This project has a special meaning for us. Twenty years ago we designed the Rajel Mikveh. It was the first "designed" Mikveh, there were other such places but not very fortunate; they were dirty and neglected, and community members were not going any longer. The ritual was dissapearing, which according to the Jewish religion is the most important. Our design was so successful that all the communities began to make their own Mikvehs, but more than mystical spaces they seemed like luxury spas. Today, 20 years later, we realize that the event for the brides becomes a big celebration, and that there is not room to meet these needs. Plus 20 years of use is also influenced by architectural trends of the moment, putting it out of time. So we have to destroy it to create a new proposal that meets the changing needs, both aesthetic and functional.

The reception becomes a big box of white light, suggesting purity., No columns, just delicate natural aluminum vertical beams and white glass, floors in Santo Tomas marble, modern and sleek white sofas. Starting up the wall and turning on the ceiling is a mural by the artist Saul Kaminer. The corridors around the building provide access to the washing bathrooms, and from these in to the Mikveh. There must be separate access and exit, since one enters impure and exits pure; this shift is found by contrasting the dark floor with the white walls and ceilings, enhancing the visual drama with recessed lighting .

The bathrooms are lined in Santo Tomás marble, with unpolished and polished white glass, stainless steel furniture and Arabescato marble. From here we enter the Mikve, a tall space with a gable roof of which is collected water to be used in the ritual. Cumaru wood paneling, marble floors and Santo Tomás marble line the pool. The Mikveh’s symbolism also represents a tomb, therefore the ritual can not be performed in a tub; it must be done directly in the ground. That this aligns the Mikveh as much with the woman's womb as the grave is not a contradiction; both are places where you can breathe, and at the same time are endpoints of the cycle of life.

Docet Institute

Docet Institute in Monterrey, Mexico by stación-ARquitectura Arquitectos, 2010.

For the Docet Institute's new home in Monterrey, stación-ARquitectura Arquitectos made the building fit the site, preserving existing trees to create a courtyard for the children in the preschool. This decsision is linked to the Institute's "respect for nature and the environment" and as a counter to the area's new developments more akin to removing trees in the process. The resulting building both stands out from and integrates itself with the landscape, depending on which face one experiences.

As can be seen on the site plan, a dropoff fronts the building's north side; this setback preserves trees close to the street and gives the building a civic presence by putting the whole facade on display. This exterior wall is primarily a ventilated assembly, custom perforated corrugated steel in front of CMU walls. It is a sparse, industrial aesthetic aimed at saving money and employing the local workforce, but the windows, narrow and staggered, enliven the facade as well as the rooms inside via colored glass. The two large expanses of the facade are cut by yellow doors below a canopy and articulated double-height entrance behind.

Where the north face is primarily solid and closed, the southern courtyard elevation is glassy and open. Here is the school's internal focus, a landscape of old trees, grass, water, and playground equipment cradled by the L-shape plan. The east-west end of the L is two stories, and the perpendicular section is one floor, with rooftop access from the former to the latter. This situation is an opportune one, making the building fit to the existing trees, but the straight line nature of the builidng means a tree actually rises in the middle of a walkway, as seen in the photo below.

Overlooking the courtyard is the double-height multi-purpose room, the interior heart of the school. The space absorbs the courtyard's filtered sunlight but also gains more from a skylight overhead. Importantly for a preschool, this space provides visibility for the kids, so they can be seen by the director and parents when needed. Internally, visibility seems to be a theme throughout, seen in openings like the ones following the stairs. It is a very light and open interior, aided by the courtyard and the sense of enclosure it brings to the project.

Fluxo Rosa

Fluxo Rosa in Morelia, Mexico by Plasma Studio, 2004.

One of Architectural Record's Design Vanguard 2004, London-based Plasma Studio uses folding as a means to create progressive designs, from interiors and exhibition design to (hopefully) buildings. Their installation at the Instituto Cultural de Michoacan is a perfect example, made all the more apparent by its relationship to the "host space".

As seen in the previous page's image, the installation makes itself known by protruding into the courtyard, disrupting the repitition and consistency of the existing colonnade. A gap between the new and the old allows entry to the exhibition space. The plan illustrates a certain rotated symmetry or inversion, the exterior portion "interiorized" about the middle of the five structural bays.

In addition to the ideas of new/old and in-between, the architects use vision and framing as important concepts to be reconsidered in their design. Starting from the street level, peep holes give passers-by a glimpse of the exhibit through small posters on the windows. This idea of controlled views is followed through to the folded pink, fabric wall. Here the idea is strongest because the small openings sit in the larger colonnaded openings, serving as a reinterpretation of inside/outside and architectural framing.

Fluxo Rosa was a collaboration with Silvia Escobedo Ortiz, Luis Fernando Mora Serrano, Zirahuen Joel Ayala Mora, the students of the Facultad de Arquitectura de la Universidad Michoacana (Isaac Bocanegra Garcia, Getzemani Alcantar, Victor Manuel Arroyo Villalobos, Arquimedes Zarza Lopez, Pedro Alberto Ramirez Vargas) and many others. The installation opened in Spring 2004 with a dance performance by ELI.

GGG House

GGG House

GGG House in Mexico City, Mexico by Kalach and Alvarez, 2000.

The following text, and accompanying images, are by Alberto Kalach and Daniel Alvarez for their design of Casa GGG, featured in Oz Volume 21. See the house completed here.

The house could be seen as the most simple and yet the most complex and exciting architectural theme. I understand it as a passage that transports inhabitants from everyday life of the street to an inner world of intimacy. The succession of spaces is discovered indirectly, diagonally, or at a turn. Spaces are not seen until you enter them individually. They make a scenario to compel human life, while they also form a plot unto themselves.

The house's spatial idea, inspired by the work of the sculptor Jorge Yazpik, starts with a basic accommodation of the program that allows afterwards a freer exploration of spatial relations through clay models. Each indentation or cut in the mass suggests the next one, in a progressive work where space is discovered rather than invented, until reaching the final volume.

The house is imagined as a great concrete monolith that is fragmented geometrically and progressively within a spatial network defined by the successive inscription of a sphere within a cube, and this, in turn, within another sphere.

Rays of light filter through the cracks, at times exploding softly, flooding the spaces. The shadows, the brightness, and the penumbra liven the passages through the house and contrast with the spaces marking the flow of time.

Gardens, pools, patios, pavilions, and alcoves are linked by cracks that break the monolith.

The general volumes of the house respond to the compelling location of the site, wedged between a beautiful golf course, a warehouse, and a five-story apartment building.

Barragán Residence

Barragán Residence

Barragán Residence in Tacubaya, Mexico City, Mexico by Luis Barragán, 1947.

The following text and images are taken from René Burri's photographic essay on Mexican architect Luis Barragán, luis barragán, published by Phaidon Press. The words are Barragan's and the images are his residence in Tacubaya, Mexico City, completed in 1947.

A perfect garden - no matter what its size - should enclose: nothing less than the entire universe.

Beauty - the invincible difficulty that the philosophers have in defining the meaning of this word is unequivocal proof of its ineffable mystery.

How can one forget joy? I believe that a work of art reaches perfection when it conveys silent joy and serenity.

A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy. There is no fuller expression of vulgarity than a vulgar garden.

Casa Condesa

Casa Condesa

Casa Condesa in Mexico City, Mexico by TEN Arquitectos, 1994.

This three-story house designed by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos is located in a residential neighborhood of Mexico City, unaccustomed to such minimal architecture. Although the brute concrete facade has few openings it strongly expresses the interior's logic. The front is made up of garage doors below a concrete wall on the right and a door with vertical windows, a balcony and roof projection on the left. These two halves, opaque and transparent, tell more than a passing glance may indicate. The entrance and windows continuing above illustrate the houses main vertical circulation and, hence, its grouping of living spaces. And while the garage does lead to other service spaces, the concrete wall hints at an introverted space, attempting to screen itself from passers-by. This simple parti of two parallel bars is wonderful in its simplicity, but surprisingly suited to its site, in response to both the urban condition and climate.

The house's interior continues the exterior's reliance upon concrete, structurally and in a haptic presence. The use of this material with oak and plain, white-painted surfaces give the interior a warmth, eschewing harshly poetic use of concrete and fellow Mexican Ricardo Legoretta's brightly colored concrete. Instead the architect use these three materials to orient the residents within their surroundings while creating an internalized environment. Poured concrete is used at the street frontage and the edge of the patio and terrace, behind and above the garage, respectively. So within the house one is made aware of the presence of the street, without seeing or hearing it, and outside the same is true in regard to the neighbors.

At the dividing line of the two parallel bars is a light, transparent glass wall, shielded from the strong southern sun with red cedar louvers, helping to give the wall a weight so it is not overwhelmed by the concrete walls. Reinforcing the introverted nature of the house, the louvers allow the occupants to see without being seen (insert voyeuristic comment here). On the second floor circulation between the living area and dining area (past the kitchen) is adjacent to this wall. But on the first and third floors, movement is pushed to the opposite, solid wall, lined with cabinets on each level. This gesture both layers the spaces and encourages movement throughout the house's interior spaces, making the terrace an integral part of the design and the resident's lives.

Without a familiarity of Enrique Norton's work this small house shows a love of modernism with a sensitivity for local conditions, all the while responding carefully to the client's desires. Like many of his contemporaries (and come to mind) works, this house uses rigid geometries, limited, local material palette, and layered spatial experiences to create designs that are eminently modern, yet grounded in a place. This house, in my mind, establishes Norton and his firm as someone to pay attention to, at a time when rampant technology, coupled with globalization, makes us forget the need to be rooted. Physically and mentally.