Gilberto Rodríguez
GLR Arquitectos
View from the Top

Monterrey’s 30‑Year Evolution

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:06

Q: How has Monterrey’s architecture and urbanism developed over the last three decades?
A: The quality of a city is directly related to the quality of its architecture and urbanism. I think that in Mexico we have historically had ill-planned cities but we are gradually correcting them. For example, Monterrey has changed significantly in the last 30 years. The inauguration of Monterrey’s Contemporary Art Museum (MARCO) marked the city’s development from a vigorous and working city to a more cultural one. This mindset change has allowed my generation of architects to access a set of clients ever more interested in culture. While this makes projects more demanding, it also places a higher value on architecture and design.
Monterrey is experiencing verticalization in residential projects that are transforming the city. This is helping to densify the urban area and improving the city’s looks. Monterrey was perceived as a horizontal city, but it is no longer so. We currently have the tallest building in Mexico, which speaks of the city’s transformation. But this has also led the cost of land to significantly increase, hindering new generations from purchasing big homes near the center of urban areas where their families usually live.
Q: What are the main urban shortages in Monterrey and how can these be better addressed?
A: The city is sadly expanding while overlooking the lower classes. It is sad to see social housing being developed two-and-a-half hours away by bus from work centers. But this generally takes place across the whole country. We need to improve public transportation; the size of Monterrey means just three Metro lines are no longer enough. We must also stop the incessant land expansion as developers look for the cheapest parcel without caring about how far away it is located or how that will impact citizens’ quality of life. This reality is contrasted with a desolate city center.
I think the next step is to densify all the empty blocks in the city center, which could evolve into residential projects at affordable and even subsidized prices. Such a strategy would directly benefit the people forced to buy a home in municipalities such as Zuazua, which is two hours away. The reality is that the city is becoming prettier but also more unequal, which is its greatest area of opportunity.
Q: How have technology and social media impacted architecture and design in Mexico?
A: GLR Arquitectos has worked hard to remain at the forefront of technology. We were one of the first five architecture firms in the city to launch a website around 20 years ago. We have pioneered in broadcasting our work through social media around the globe. This has allowed us to become known in distant places such as Israel and Korea and to attract clients in Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But globalization also contrasts Mexico with the world, making us more aware of what we are missing as a country.
The new slogan of the Harvard School of Design is “Think Global, Act Local,” encouraging the guild to have a worldwide vision but be concerned about how this would impact local communities. Social media is also gaining relevance in promoting the work and success of architects, especially with new generations and clients in foreign cities where word of mouth is no longer enough.