Venice 2008 | The Mexican Pavilion

Living in Here | Mexican Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

“Living in Here” is the general theme of the Mexican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 11th International Architecture Exhibition. The exhibition presents a collective proposal for affordable housing in Mexico City. Curated by Javier Sánchez, the exhibition is split up in two parts, at the one hand there are the interviews with architects, developers, housing authorities, academics, members of architectural associations, community leaders, as well as inhabitants from affordable housing projects, while on the other hand 10 groups of young architects were invited to propose ideas for affordable projects inside the city.

In his foreword to the “Living in Here”-publication curator Javier Sánchez explains the situation Mexico City is facing, and with which this exhibition engages, as follows:

Mexico City today is facing one of the fastest transformations of its peripheries in the last 5 years. The production of “social” housing is the driver, with 105,000 units built by developers and the same amount of self built housing built by the people each year. Informal settlements, in the peripheries during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, were the result of the huge demographic growth colliding with disjoined policies and plans to address the demand; but in recent times this form of settlement is being challenged through a more accelerated pace of formal housing production.

DEMET Social Housing Complex. Urbanisación San Pedro. 2,400 Housing. | Mexican Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

Similar to the investigations of the “Affordable City”-project, undertaking by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel, for the Israeli Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale, the scope of the research and design interventions take codes, rules and regulations as their point of departure so to deal with the notion of the “formal and informal” and redensification of urban areas through implementation of “Affordable Housing”. Javier Sánchez puts this as follows:

The proposals presented in Living In Here address the possibilities to create affordable housing inside Mexico City. We wanted to be able to understand the constraints involved and react by reshaping them, sometimes critically transforming construction codes and requirements, and sometimes adding new rules to the experiment. We took an active Barrio called Colonia Obrera, just south of Mexico City’s center, a place where formal and informal commercial activity happens on the street. Our ultimate objective is to be able to produce affordable housing projects for a diverse range of households, mixed with commerce, services and public space within the existing fabric, redensifying with new construction and recycling of existing structures, creating tension between new and old, between public and private, between formal and informal, between strategy and outcome.

The curator and 8 out of the 10 Mexican offices participating in the “Living in there”-exhibition were also present in ORDOS100. Ai Weiwei has put on his blog the ORDOS100-proposals of following offices (click on them to see the project): Javier Sánchez, at103, Arturo Ortiz Struck, Tatiana Bilbao, Michel Rojkind, Productora, Frente and Dellekamp Arquitectos.

10 architects working on Colonia Obrera | Mexican Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

Spectrumdensification in The Park by Rojkind Arquitectos | Mexican Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

Constrained by nine rules (amongst them the conservation of existing buildings over 3 stories high, generate public space at a ratio of 1:3 and utilize the roof as recreation, relaxation, or meeting space) the architects where let loose on a zone called Colonia Obrera. The programmatic objects are set out in the exhibition publication:

The aim is to generate an alternative architectural and urban solution to the problem of affordable housing in Mexico City. Colonia Obrera is the zone that we have selected, it has formal characteristics and density with potential to be developed. It is an area where, in recent years, has seen a phenomenon of replacing formally horizontal housing by vertical housing complexes of the standard 26 type. These new buildings resolve the issue of redensificacion but do not offer anything in terms of architectural and urban quality, much less in the accomodation of public space. The 10 proposals to be inserted within this tissue give new routes, create public space, and propose an alternative housing quality.

Recycle city by at103 | Mexican Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

Almost nothing by Arquitectura 911 sc | Mexican Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

The publication gives a short sight into the diverse interests and proposal of the selected offices in the second half, while the first half is filled with extracts of the interviews with stakeholders involved in the debate. In his introduction to these interviews, the curator sums up the situation as follows:

There is a general agreement on the fact that housing in Mexico has been forgotten by architects and state together and the demand has been left to be addressed by developers who have created big scale projects disconnected from the social concerns and from the city.

2008 Venice Architecture Biennale
2008 Venice Architecture Biennale – Mexican Pavilion
2008 Venice Architecture Biennale – Mexican Pavilion – ‘Living in here’-publication

Websites Participating Mexican Offices

Javier Sánchez – curator

Arturo Ortiz Struck + Rozana Montiel
Tatiana Bilbao S.C
Michel Rojkind/ Rojkind Arquitectos
FRENTE / Juan Pablo Maza
Dellekamp Arquitectos + Gerardo Asali
arquitectura 911sc
PETER EBNER and friends

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