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Often associated with the mid-century work of Luis Barragán, Mexican architecture has long been characterised by an intricate – and sometimes not so intricate – blend of linear modernism and parochial, organic buildings. Now a generation of Mexican architects are building to solve social and environmental problems – attracting interest from an international audience along the way. Will Moffitt speaks to the Marcus Prize winning architect Tatiana Bilbao, and LANZA Atelier founder Isabel Abascal about what unites and divides architects working in the country.


arked only by a solid white wall with a door and sliding panel, the former refuge of

Mexico’s most famous architect looks like any of the other modest small-scale houses nestled on Calle de General Francisco Ramírez in the west of Mexico City. While the plain cemented facades are higher than the surrounding structures, it’s the interior of the place that tells you this is the former home of Guadalajara-born Luis Barragán. There are the trademark splashes of pink and yellow, the playful use of light and space, the interplay between interior and exterior worlds.

Like the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, or The Calakmul “washing machine” Building, Casa Luis Barragán draws tourists and architectural aficionados from across the globe to glimpse its unique blend of clinical modernism and Mexican vernacular. Winner of the Pritzker Prize in 1980, its creator and former inhabitant remains the country’s most cherished architectural export. If Barragán’s style was unique, however, his marriage of Aztec and Mayan culture with styles imported from Europe and the US was not. This


syncretism birthed a distinctly Mexican iteration of mid-century modernism that gave rise to house builders and urban planners during a creative explosion between the 1940s and 1970s. Along with Barragán, the work of Felix Candela, Ricardo Legorreta, Juan O'Gorman and Ignacio Diaz Morales has been much lauded. Go to Mexico City or Guadalajara and their legacy is still ingrained in both place and psyche.

While that surge of creativity may have run out of steam during the economic depression of the 1980s, Mexico’s contemporary architectural landscape is still occupied by a diverse range of architects building to solve the country’s social and environmental problems. From the innovative origami-like forms of Michel Rojkind to the eco-focused creations of Alberto Kallach or the

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1. Forest House by LANZA Atelier. 2. Ventura House by Tatiana Bilbao.


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