“ Architecture is an art when one consciously or unconsciously creates aesthetic emotion in the atmosphere and when this environment produces well being." - Luis Barragán
Mexico has always had an extraordinary architectural culture. From Pre-Columbian temples to the hybrid Colonial period of European and indigenous cultures, this region has cities and monuments demonstrating an elegance and sophistication absent in much of North America. Mexico has 29 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list and boasts many buildings by post -revolution modernism greats such as Luis Barragán and Spaniard Felix Candela. Now, younger architects and designers of Mexico are influencing design and are more focused on sustainability and reinvention and less on traditional heritage. They are blending the refined lines and raw functionalism of Mexican modernism with vernacular, form-driven design, while incorporating traditional light and color made famous by their own modernism predecessors.
Mexican designers are looking to climate, terrain and vernacular forms to inspire the design of the project, while celebrating regional influence, local culture and the unique characteristics of site. The Sunset Chapel, a boulder-shaped structure in Acapulco, Mexico, is a mausoleum designed by the up-and-coming Mexican studio Bunker Arquitectura. The faceted building appears to balance on the rocky terrain, seemingly hovering above a large boulder. The concrete structure is windowless, mimicking the giant rock but also looking as if it had been carved by a precise mason. At the chapel level, narrow-carved windows open up to bathe the space in light and provide stunning views out to the Pacific Ocean and the sunset. Acapulco's hills are made up of huge granite rocks piled on top of each other. In a purely mimetic endeavor, the architects designed the chapel look like “just another" colossal boulder atop the mountain.
Mexican buildings have traditionally incorporated sustainable principles, including using local materials such as naturally insulating adobe, and using courtyards with fountains to cool indoor spaces. However, due to energy demand and climate change, sophisticated green technologies—photovoltaic cells and on-site waste treatment — recently began working their way into mainstream design. Casa Cormanca, a family house in Mexico City by local architect Paul Cremoux, conceals a three-story green wall behind its slate-clad façade. These plants act to moderate the home's own internal temperature, while giving residents an indoor garden. Recyclable content materials, VOC paint, cross ventilations and passive energy-temperature control strategies are bound into the core design.
Gracia Studio, a leader in sustainable architecture, designed these Endemico's structures located in Valle de Gaudalupe, Baja California to have the smallest possible carbon footprint. The units, which were produced 30 minutes away and moved to Valle de Guadalupe, are simply hooked up to electricity and water with the help of a local team. The steel structure is perfect for elevating the skeleton of the room to avoid contact with the soil, while also changing color over time, making the building blend ever more seamlessly with the surroundings. As a result, Endémico Resguardo Silvestre is not only eco-friendly, but also socially and culturally responsible.
Many Mexican designers are adding vivid colors and texture to designs, combining essential Mexican visual heritage with post-revolution modernist forms of abstraction. Constituyentes Illuminated Façade, located on one of the main avenues in Mexico City, is designed by Taller David Dana Arquitectura. The architectural approach integrates a front entry plaza that works as a boundary and transition between the building and the street, while incorporated colorful LED lighting reduces the visual impact of the five-level structure and acts as art installation. The lights are placed on the structure at random locations, creating an attractive and dynamic geometry. The strategy results in transforming the space into a dynamic, colorful installation that interacts simultaneously with the public and the private space.
Reaching back more than 2,000 years, Mexico's architectural heritage is a vibrant melting pot. By mixing Pre-Hispanic influences and Colonial style together with Modernist simplicity and eco-friendly responsibility, today's Mexican architects are pushing the boundaries of structural form and creatively integrating local culture into each design.
All images used with permission