José Suárez Picazo
Urbania VHSP
View from the Top

High-End Design will Unlock Social Prosperity

By Pedro Alcalá | Fri, 12/18/2020 - 11:50

Q: What led to the collaboration between Urbania and VHSP?

A: It all evolved from one-time interactions and collaborations between groups, entities and individuals. SPRL has evolved within Urbania in the same way many other architectural firms have. We have developed larger scale residential, commercial and corporate office projects. After 10 years, we now have a new independent division called SPRL, which focuses entirely on design. The challenges we face in our developments have become increasingly relevant to the architectural scene on an international level. As a result, we have established networks with US and Canadian firms and we are contemplating expanding our services in those markets.

We offer services that range from the initial evaluation of a project proposal and conceptualization, that includes its market context and value, to the development of formal construction documents and onsite construction supervision. We have also worked on hotel projects and this has allowed us to engage with important markets and grow considerably. Ten years ago, three people worked in the company, now there are 50 of us. We offer more specialized services and use more digital tools and platforms to develop our projects.

Q: How has the high-end development market changed in 2020?

A: Many of the lessons that we have learned in the high-end market are being applied in the social housing sector. This is the result of the economic conditions imposed by the pandemic. Many innovations and considerations made for the high-end market now have to be reshaped to service the social market. For example, regarding our design philosophy, the idea that the social psyche interacts in profound ways with the shape and nature of its environments and is affected by that. Here, design must be considered as something other than a luxury item, meaning more of a basic need for human development. We must develop projects under the assumption that we can transform society through design. 

Mixed-use projects are becoming more common, as well as home office modalities. These considerations go beyond the nature of residential spaces. Where people live and where people work are two modules of development that need to be considered in a much more integrated and thoughtful manner.

While we have been indeed focused on the high-end market for the last few years, we have been mindful that firms like ours that are well-established were not paying enough attention to the needs of the social sector. Developments designed with massive middle-class consumption in mind are going to start playing a much larger role in the sector. This is great because these developments represent the true bedrock of the economy. Meanwhile, the growth of the high-end market, particularly in Mexico, has limitations, regardless of its expansion. In 2020, we started seeing a decrease in expansion.      

Q: How will markets in the southeastern states perform?

A: I think the services market needs to be significantly strengthened throughout the entire Mayan Riviera, especially if residential planning is to receive as much attention as the tourism sector. People who live and work in the Riviera Maya need to have reliable basic services available to them. Cancun was developed with very little planning, and as a result, many services do not reach the entire population. The same thing might happen in Tulum. We hope people remember and consider what happened to Cancun. When we arrived in Merida 10 years ago, there were only two buildings that were taller than 10 stories and very few that were taller than five. We arrived in Merida and began to play a very significant role in that city’s vertical development. The city has grown to become the capital Mexico’s southeast and will benefit from infrastructure investment.    


Suárez Picazo Reality Lab (SPRL) is one of the entities housed under the Urbania VHSP real estate development umbrella. SPRL specializes in design and architecture services for high-end developments in Mexico and the Caribbean, mostly residential, along with an additional portfolio of commercial and public spaces.

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Journalist and Industry Analyst