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The MoMA Welcomes Mexico City Architects Escobedo Soliz Studio

Soliz and Escobedo consider themselves just a sample of a growing trend of success stories among young Mexican architects

Soliz Escobedo Studio, photo: The News/Chad Hodge
By Chad Hodge Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
2 years ago

MEXICO CITY — Mexico City’s Andrés Soliz Paz and Lazbent Pavel Escobedo Amaral of Escobedo Soliz Studio traveled to New York City on Monday to begin constructing their installation ‘Weaving the Courtyard’ for the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) PS1 patio.

As this year’s winners of MoMA’s Young Architects Program competition, their design proposed a site-specific intervention of colorful cords woven in varying densities to provide a canopy for the MoMA’s PS1 patio with several degrees of shade, while also featuring a shallow wading pool.

A photo from Escobedo Soliz Studio's proposal. Photo: Courtesy of Escobedo Soliz Studio

A photo of Escobedo Soliz Studio’s model “Weaving the Courtyard.’ Photo: Courtesy of Escobedo Soliz Studio

According to the MoMA, Weaving the Courtyard is “a site-specific architectural intervention using the courtyard’s concrete walls to generate both sky and landscape, with embankments in which platforms of soil and water suggest the appearance of a unique topography.”

Nominated by the architecture department of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Escobedo Soliz Studio made the shortlist — out of 30 competitors — in December of 2015, and were announced the winners in February. This was the first time, and in it’s 17th year, that the competition was opened up to nominees outside of the United States and Canada, and resulted in two teams from Mexico among the five shortlisted teams.

In an interview with The News, Andrés Soliz Paz and Lazbent Pavel Escobedo spoke of the competition and why Mexican architecture is emerging on the international scene with a new generation of architects.

The shortlisted teams only had approximately six weeks from visiting the site to design and present their proposals.

Weaving the Courtyard Photo: Courtesy of Escobedo Soliz Studio

‘Weaving the Courtyard’ Photo: Courtesy of Escobedo Soliz Studio

The challenge for the young architects was the lack of a program, or specific requirements, for the design. When Soliz and Escobedo met with Klaus Biesenbach, the director of PS1 at the MoMA, during their site visit in September, he had expressed to the teams that they wanted a solution that provides ‘refreshment’ to the visitors and patrons of the patio’s events.

“They didn’t ask for a specific program, specific materials, specific locations of the pavilion or a specific typology,” said Soliz. “But they did want it to be sustainable … and they wanted it to be inviting.

“At least we understood it that way, that we needed to find a way to intensify the events and interactions, the experiences within the space. That is why the pavilion is not a sculpture or an object … it’s more than a pavilion, it’s an intervention.”

When asked why their design was more successful than their contemporaries, Soliz quickly replied, “To be honest, every team had a different way to approach the problem. I think it’s very hard to judge which design is better than the other, it’s very subjective. A lot depends on understanding what exactly the jury wants.”

“Our project is also a project that only exists in that space, in those conditions,” added Escobedo.

“Maybe it’s because at the time it was the cheapest. Maybe now, not so much,” Soliz had joked.

'Weaving the Courtyard' Photo: Courtesy of Escobedo Soliz Studio

‘Weaving the Courtyard’ Photo: Courtesy of Escobedo Soliz Studio

Soliz and Escobedo were very modest about the precedent they are setting, saying they consider themselves just a sample of a growing trend of success stories among young Mexican architects. They attribute it to Mexican craftsmanship, despite limited resources, that allows for emerging talent to be noticed by growing international trends of urban intervention and sustainability.

“I think if they keep inviting Mexican architects to these kinds of projects in the U.S., I think there will be great proposals from Mexican architects from generations above us and below us. Things are happening here,” said Soliz.

“I think it’s also because we have ‘la suerte,’ the luck, to participate,” said Escobedo. With such good architecture programs like those at UNAM, at Ibero, Guadalajara, at Yucatan, he said, it’s only a matter of time before this generation makes its mark.

Weaving the Courtyard will be finished with construction in early June, and will adorn and intervene the PS1 courtyard, which hosts events and concerts from the MoMA’s Warm Up series throughout the summer.

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