Cohesion Needed in Urban DevelopmentTue, 11/01/2016 - 10:19
“Mexico is a country of architects,” says Victor Legorreta, Partner, Managing & Design Director at architecture firm LEGORRETA. “Many countries build to meet a need, but Mexico builds for pleasure.” Legorreta sees architecture as an integral part of daily life that must satisfy the public’s needs while also addressing the needs of a city’s infrastructure as it grows economically and in size. “Architecture is incorporated into the everyday life of Mexican citizens and is now used as an expression of culture,” he says. “The country is growing at an exponential rate and each day it requires the construction of infrastructure that will meet the demands of its people.” The integration of architecture into construction processes can provide solutions to the some of the biggest problems. Legorreta says that connecting with and adapting to the environment is among the most prominent challenges architects face. “Architects have the ability to reduce the carbon footprint of companies, especially since 50 percent of a city’s energy is consumed by buildings,” he says. “This means architects have a considerable responsibility to design innovative construction methods to optimize the use of energy.” The availability of land is another challenge amid the country’s economic growth. “Land has become the treasure of the 21st century as it becomes scarcer each passing year,” says Legorreta. “Growth concerns have led to an increase in the development of compact and vertical infrastructures. To support such growth, new forms of urbanism should be implemented to create efficient public transport systems and pedestrian-friendly streets.”
Near the end of 2015, Mexico became the first country in Latin America to earn the biennial World Design Capital accolade for 2018. But rather than rest on its laurels, Legorreta believes it is important for cities to recover the character of the old neighborhoods and barrios that offered a simpler way of living. “As cities such as Queretaro and San Luis Potosi continue to grow, it is important to offer people a higher quality of life and design neighborhoods with accessible amenities and social areas,” he says. “Space is a luxury and it is important that we begin doing more with less space,” argues Legorreta. “In the last few years, Mexico has experienced a boom in mixed use developments. The presence of restaurants, stores and other services in close proximity to apartments and offices enhances quality of life and the well-being of families.”
There is also an increasing preference for open office layouts rather than the traditional cubicles of the past. “New generations have an open mentality as to how and where they want to live and work,” says Legorreta. “Traditionally, Mexico has been an individualist country but to excel it must reach out and collaborate with other players. Mexico’s skylines are filled with astonishing buildings but the urban design of the cities lacks cohesion. Developers, architects and authorities must work together to create cities that are more resilient.” Mixed use developments have optimized the use of space throughout cities but people are also increasingly vocal about their opposition to the construction of certain infrastructures, which has resulted in delays and high costs for developers. Legorreta says that better cooperation is needed. “It is important that all players are involved in the planning and execution of projects to ensure they are completed both on time and on budget. With our latest project, the Salesforce.com headquarters in San Francisco, we designated six months for dialogue with neighboring communities to create a project that best fits the needs of all the people involved.” Ultimately, this project was beneficial to everybody in the community, he says, adding this is not often seen in Mexico.
Legorreta is also concerned that rural and disadvantaged areas are sometimes left behind. “Developers and architects can sometimes forget what it is like to work with social housing and in low income neighborhoods,” he says. The firm believes there are neighborhoods, such as Lindavista in north Mexico City, with strong infrastructure, access to transportation and wide streets that have the potential for development. “The environment in which we live is extremely important and it affects our level of happiness,” Legorreta says. “The quality of our places of work can affect our productivity, learning and mood. These two aspects must work in tandem because together they have the power to impact the life of people and the surrounding environment."