Mextrópoli architecture festival celebrates recyclable materials

Waste from the tequila industry, squashed paint cans, and wooden frames transported by suitacase, were among the recycled materials used to build pavilions at Mexico City’s annual architecture festival.

‘Where the City Ends’ is both a statement and a question posed by the theme of this year’s festival. “This brief came from a real need, not because it’s a trending theme,” says Miquel Adrià, the director of Arquine, the company responsible for Mextrópoli, which took place 9-12 March.

After Mexico’s devastating September 2017 earthquakes, the urgency for architects to consider reusable materials became obvious, he explains: “We need to be able to take such projects to people who need them more than we do for these few days.”

As part of the festival, 18 pavilions by architecture studios and students were constrcuted from recyclable material and installed in city’s oldest park, Alameda Central. 

SUMA Estudio produced the main Mextrópoli Pavilion for this year's festival. The young Mexico City architecture studio drew on childhood memories, using aspects of nature – leaves, stones, sand – as the elements that made up their first play-date games for their pavilion called Tezontle Ludens.

Their pavilion is a quadrangle filled with tezontle, a local stone that’s been used in Mexico since the pre-hispanic era. The structure is lined with white curtains that blow in the breeze. “We wanted to create a sense of freedom in this public space,” explains the team, “while containing it in a way that places value on it.” The elevated construction provides seating on both the exterior and interior border, while the curtains provide shade, making it a welcoming spot for park-lovers.

Pabellón 1800 by Taller Mauricio Rocha and Gabriela Carrillo was inspired by the 1800 Tequila brand to create a conically shaped pavilion is made entirely of agave plants sourced directly from the town of Tequila where the drink is produced. 

“When tequila is made, they use only the heart of the agave, and so we wanted to give life to the rest of the plant, too,” explains Gabriela Carrillo. Entering the teepee-like structure, one is able to appreciate its large scale from inside, while enjoying a unique view of the sky from the circular opening overhead. Shadow-play is heightened in this structure that surrounds the park’s statue of Prussian naturalist Alexander van Humboldt, who spent time exploring Mexico’s natural environment. “The statue is a nice surprise for people who enter,” Carrillo says. “Many people never notice it otherwise.”

Fernando Molina, a professor of geometry at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, carried everything he needed for his egg-like creation in two suitcases from his hometown in Spain to Mexico. “All of this weighs just 40kg,” pointing to the oblong structure called Huevo that is made up of 1,200 wooden rods and triangular plastic panels.

A previous exhibition had him including a light source inside so that night-time shadows created fascinating forms. Through the use of geometry, Molina believes architecture can be reimagined and the future re-envisioned. “Just like an egg, in which life grows, this installation shows what is and what will be.”

This open, permeable space by Espacio Efímero’s class of 2018-2019 allows visitors dynamic interaction with their natural park surroundings. “It’s an environment that investigates how people naturally flow through a city, and navigate obstacles in the way of their movement,” the team behind Posgrado Espacio Efimero explains. “It also explores the passage of time and the way in which things change within an urban setting.”

They document these changes by involving the public, inviting them, at two different hours of the day, to place vinyl stickers on the ground, marking where the sun’s shadows fall from the structure at that precise moment. Each day, the installation moves to a different part of the park, resulting in a park ground mapped with metamorphosis. 

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