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Mural Idyll: La Tallera Siqueiros in Cuernavaca by Frida Escobedo

This dramatic transformation of a former artist’s studio is recognised with £10,000 AR Emerging Architecture prize

Mexico City-based architect Frida Escobedo recalls sitting and observing the life inside the apartment blocks across the street from the hospital while waiting for her father to finish his day’s work. ‘It’s about how the inhabitants appropriate space with colours and textures,’ she says to explain her fascination, since childhood, for the relationship between people and places. And as much as she can, she attempts to encourage people to engage with her work.

AR Emerging Architecture awards

Launched in 1999, the AREA awards celebrate promising portfolios of work and propel young talent onto the international stage

Click here to find out more and submit your work

When transforming late Mexican muralist and political activist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s live-work space into a new museum, La Tallera, for the small Mexican city of Cuernavaca, taking down the perimeter wall enabled Escobedo to open up the previously private patio to the public and connect it to the adjacent open square. Two of the painter’s gigantic murals, initially placed inside the courtyard so that only glances of them could be caught from the street, are now proudly displayed at the entrance, facing outward like arms wide open and inviting people to wander in.

Tallera floor plans

Tallera floor plans

Floor plans

‘Rotating the mural ignites the symbolic elements of the facade’s architectural syntax, altering the typical relationship between gallery and visitor,’ explains Escobedo. The aim is to merge public space with cultural institution, turning this new venue into a lively museum, workshop, artist and research residency, and meeting point for the production and criticism of art. 

The different volumes of the complex are all encased in an envelope of perforated triangular concrete blocks. While the museum staff appreciates the electricity savings generated by the abundant natural light permeating the perforated blocks, the architect speaks of ‘authenticity’ – the importance of showing materials, whether raw or sophisticated, as they are.

Her proposal for La Tallera was chosen while Escobedo was applying for a master’s degree at Harvard – where she studied ‘art, design in the public domain’. She finds projects particularly exciting when they blur the boundaries between art and architecture and enjoys ‘working on totally different types of projects at the same time, to let them feed off each other’ – she tries to stick to Kersten Geers’ advice, ‘stay slippery’. 

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La Tallera Siqueiros

Architect: Frida Escobedo Architecture Studio

Project team: Frida Escobedo, Rodolfo Díaz Cervantes, Adrian Moreau, Adiranne Montemayor, Fernando Cabrera

Photographs: Rafael Gamo