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Seeds of change: Estudio MMX, Mexico

Estudio MMX have been shortlisted for the AR Emerging Architecture awards 2019. View the shortlist here

In 2015, Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo, was occupied by a scaffolding superstructure, stretching its long arms across the square’s 240-metre width. The occupation was only temporary – just 10 days – to house the Feria Internacional de las Culturas Amigas (International Fair of Friendly Cultures), bringing together more than 70 countries to share their food, crafts, dance and other cultural production.

Designed by local practice Estudio MMX, the efficient and economical structure, consisting of scaffolding and canvas, only took 48 hours to construct. Its plan took the form of three long rhomboid shapes, or ‘ships’, reaching out from a central forum for events, creating three distinct plazas and cleverly distributing the fair’s 3.1 million visitors across the enormous square.

‘MMX have a systematic, pragmatic, refined approach to constructing different building types at different scales for different communities’

Participating in the discussions and creation of future city environments is important to MMX, whose projects also include large-scale urban proposals. Jorge Arvizu, Ignacio del Río, Emmanuel Ramírez and Diego Ricalde, all from Mexico, worked and studied abroad before founding MMX in 2010. Forming a collaborative practice with a portfolio of projects on diverse scales, they are interested in ‘structures, proportion, geometry, landscape and the city’.

With work on schemes ranging from urban developments to installations and housing, they approach each new project as ‘a unique challenge posed by the particular physical, economic, political and social context’. The Garden Loop, for example, imagines a ‘national arboretum’ circuit in Mexico City, linking green, open and public areas with relevant sites and landmarks in a walkable loop with a radius of 15 kilometres. The practice explains that ‘cities in our context, wanting to thrive, do not necessarily require new icons; cities need only to work with and link what they already have’.

Estudio mmx site

Estudio mmx site

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The architects hold the conviction that DANE ALONSO ‘simple but thoughtful interventions add value’. The largest floral park in the world, the Jardines Centrales de Jojutla in Morelos, south of Mexico City, was heavily damaged in the earthquakes of September 2017, like other large parts of the region. Through an open participatory design process with the community, MMX reconstructed the gardens within a few months, retaining the former functions of the open public space. Two new structures composed of a series of detailed, crafted, interlocking ochre brick arches reference the region’s local building traditions and house a covered meeting space and kiosk adjacent to a civic square and garden.

Floor plans

Floor plans

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The idea of a garden is central to another of MMX’s projects back in Mexico City. Nestled in the leafy neighbourhood of Anzures, a few hundred metres from Bosque de Chapultepec – the large forest, known as the ‘lungs’ of Mexico City – and completed in 2017, the Departamentos DGB borrow from the form of traditional Mexican courtyard houses: three apartments cradle a central garden, with vegetation infiltrating and present throughout. The lowest apartment, which sits above a partially submerged basement, is arranged on one floor around the courtyard, while the other two, which are set above it, are split across two levels and interlocked. The apartments open out to balconies and the rooftop terrace, held in a monumental, exposed-concrete armature. Large elegant windows shaded by sculptural brise-soleil frame plant-fringed views over the city. The open circulation is cleverly manipulated to allow for generous, more-public spaces as well as intimate, private rooms.

Estudio mmx section

Estudio mmx section

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MMX prioritises participation in their work processes, and the architecture they create reflects both their collaborative structure and their systematic, pragmatic, refined approach to constructing different building types at different scales for different communities. ‘The social context of Mexico is, as the founders explain, ‘not one but many’. 

This piece is featured in the AR November issue on the Foreign + Emerging Architecture – click here to purchase your copy today

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