Winner of the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture
‘Our work is to create shade, because the light is already there.’ For Gabriela Etchegaray that is the essence of design. Architecture starts with the existing, all that is already here around us – local materials, native vegetation and natural light.
Just as a few lines on blank paper are enough to define elements and bring out volumes, her projects rely on clear structural systems, creating an architecture that feels spontaneous yet expressive, always solidly anchored to the ground it sits on.
Milagrito mezcal pavilion santiago matatlan jpg
Etchegaray worked under Mauricio Rocha in Taller de Arquitectura for two years. It was here that she learned to build projects from rudimentary elements that are always in touch with their context. She then went on to co–found Ambrosi Etchegaray with her partner, Jorge Ambrosi.
Their studio in Mexico City’s Condesa neighbourhood speaks of them as both people and architects: light floods the interior throughout, torn-up wallpaper reveals layers of occupation and history, models and plants populate the office’s walls and floors.
Guanajuato housing project Mexico City Mexico by Ambrosi Etchegaray
When asked to regenerate the facilities of a small artisanal mezcal factory in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, a handful of tectonic elements were enough to structure the production line in the house’s backyard.
‘Our work is to create shade, because the light is already there’
The family had been making the alcoholic beverage for over 100 years but its set–up did not comply with hygiene regulations for the commercialisation and export of the product. The oven now occupies the courtyard’s centre, with the production line – horse mill, fermentation vats, copper alembic – arranged around it and housed under simple slab column concrete frames that are filled with earth from the site and fragrances from the long years of artisan production.
Guanajuato housing project Mexico City Mexico by Ambrosi Etchegaray3
Ambrosi Etchegaray intelligently uses all opportunities that present themselves to investigate core concepts at the heart of its work, even when collaborating with property developers to design and build residential buildings in Mexico City. Its latest scheme, the Guanajuato housing project, completed in November 2015, feels like a simple extrusion of the plot’s surface area, a solid monolith that is then carved out to let light in and accommodate the growth of vegetation. The central courtyard and a series of patios, both private and communal, guarantee continuity between nature and architecture, between interior and exterior.
‘Her projects rely on clear structural systems, creating an architecture that feels spontaneous yet expressive, always solidly anchored to the ground it sits on’
If the previous generation of Mexican architects found inspiration and recognition abroad, Ambrosi Etchegaray deplores the way in which, today, across the world, architects are influenced by images and architecture culture travels via the media. It is, together with a group of architects of its own generation in Mexico City, seeking to develop a new local language as a contemporary reinterpretation of its country’s rich cultural and material history.
Mexican idiosyncrasies, captured in and expressed by local architecture over the centuries, are particularly powerful, and the younger generation feels it has reached a time of introspection. Much more than originality, their work is rooted in continuity.