SCI-Arc in Mexico City

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While President Trump sends out tweet after negative tweet about Mexico, designers are preoccupied with the country -- for its food, fashion, architecture and products that meld old traditions and new technology.

“In Los Angeles particularly, there’s a really growing interest in Mexico’s culture at large,” said Hernan Diaz Alonso, director of LA-based SCI-Arc. “I really believe that Mexico City has become the beacon of the Latin American city.”

The experimental architecture school has set up a satellite school in the capital.

Francisco Pardo directs the program out of his architecture office in the Juárez neighborhood, buzzing with new eateries, clubs and modern Mexican design stores.

“The contextual condition of Mexico City is very particular. It’s super eclectic. It doesn't have a homogeneous mass like Paris or like Barcelona,” Pardo said. “Mexico City is experimenting on different kinds of architecture. The codes are changing to densify the city so you can have a high rise of 30-40 floors next to a two-floor house.”

“And this is super exciting for architecture because it doesn't give you the boredom of cities of having the same kind of condition all over,” he added. “I'm sure LA is going to start going in that direction for sure because it needs density to be able to work for the next 50-100 years.”

Visiting students and faculty from SCI-Arc collaborate on projects of interest to both cities, such as affordable housing. And they study the highly built-up Mexico City for lessons it might teach about growth.

Pardo tells DnA about how Mexico City compares to LA in terms of street vendors and the use of public space, earthquake resilience, parking requirements, homelessness and affordable housing.

Mexico City’s Biblioteca Vasconcelos, designed by Alberto Kalach, serves as both a public library and a botanical garden. Photo credit: Frances Anderton.