Mauricio Ceballos
Founder & CEO
MCxA Group
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View from the Top

Space Distribution, Challenge and Opportunity in Architecture

By Andrea Villar | Mon, 10/26/2020 - 05:00

Q:  What is Ceballos Architects (MCxA) hallmark?

A: We always see architecture as a collaborative research process. We see buildings not for what they should but for what they can be. Every project has the potential to be more and we always look for that extra mile. At MCxA, we always look for gender and cultural diversity to enrich the results of our projects. We acknowledge that through research, collaboration, and diversity we can create a better design. 

A: What is the key to projects being well-accepted by the communities around them?

A: One of the main objectives at MCxA is to be ethical in our proposals. We are firm believers that when things are done right; it is easy to stand up for them. Obviously, the size of the project always influences a greater or lesser response. If the construction is going to be a mega tower, there will always be neighbors who will be affected and will mind the construction. This also happens with smaller projects. In the end, if what you are doing is purposeful and ethical and you seek an assertive dialogue with people, an agreement will always be reached. Each case is unique; being open to listening to the other party and having the conviction that we are doing the right thing has always brought us good results. 

Q: The pandemic has exiled people from big cities. What has been the impact on the company's projects? 

A: There are two visions regarding the pandemic. While some say that it will change everything as we know it, others expect we will eventually return to the way we were before. This crisis has helped us to understand what we were doing in our daily lives in cities. Suddenly, most people realized that we may be living and coexisting in spaces that are not necessarily the best for us. Questions about what quality of life is and how we can live better have become more obvious than ever.

In my view, the future will be a hybrid between our old and our new reality. It is hard to believe that everyone will now move out of cities but there will be a balance between working from home and going to the office. For our industry, this is a unique challenge. The pandemic, with all the tragedy that it has brought, is an opportunity for designers and especially for architects who think about and look for new solutions. Certain things will probably not survive after this pandemic. There are already many offices and entire shopping centers that people will rarely visit. Airports and restaurants will also suffer greatly over the next 10 years. All businesses that are going bankrupt or rethinking their business model will have to come up with new concepts to invest in. This gives architects a great opportunity to imagine new concepts, such as new places of entertainment, new restaurants, as well as things that we did not expect would happen. 

Q: What innovations and solutions are you envisioning at MCxA?

A: We are working on housing or mixed-use projects that have already been partially modified due to the pandemic. They are already designed to be spaces where people not only go to sleep but also to work. Apartments are now starting to be transformed to include home-office areas, larger terraces and common spaces and places where people can go out to get some air. 

When building a project in Mexico City, 80 percent of it is destined for parking. That is simply no longer sustainable. Sooner or later, when vehicles are no longer one of the main means of transportation, these large spaces can be used for other purposes. At MCxA, one of the solutions we are proposing is to make use of these spaces in the logistics industry. E-commerce has grown so much that it now needs distribution points in cities. Shopping centers, for example, are ideal for this. 

Q: How will health measures influence both architecture and urban planning?

A: It is interesting to look back and see that modernism emerged, among many other reasons, out of a health need. Buildings were previously much more closed and poorly maintained, which precipitated many illnesses such as typhoid, cholera and polio. Modernism proposes high, white buildings with large windows. In the old days, when people arrived in cities, there were areas to quarantine arrivals and even health visas to verify that travelers had received vaccines. With time, however, this trend was forgotten. The pandemic led us to question how spaces help to avoid the spread of viruses. 

We need more space. Real estate development in recent years focused on providing less and less space. Twenty years ago, the thought of living in a 60m2 apartment was inconceivable. Today, there are apartments with less space than that. Now, public spaces are becoming much more relevant. People want to be able to go out for a walk on the street or in a park, which allows for space between people. Changes will not be immediate but small modifications will begin to emerge that will end up becoming big changes. 

Q: How do you take on the challenge of designing larger spaces in a place like Mexico City?

A: I do believe in densification of cities as a method of sustainable development. When a city grows in a horizontal way, the time people use to move around increases, which in turn causes more pollution and reduces quality time in people's lives. We are working with an Australian company called Finding Infinity on a project to transform cities from consumers to producers. Today, a city consumes a lot of its surroundings, either water or energy. This project seeks to get cities to start producing to eventually become self-sustaining. Currently, a net-zero building can be built that does not produce waste and is self-sustainable in energy terms. This is still expensive but it is certainly should start to be considered in our cities. This project proposes that community initiatives instead of individual efforts. For example, the trash produced in a building can generate energy for the houses and buildings around it. 

 

Mauricio Ceballos Architects is an international collaborative architecture firm. The company, alongside FR-EE and Foster + Partners, directed the NAIM project, as well as the Soumaya Museum, Plaza Carso, G-20 Convention Center, the Hyperloop and other international projects

Andrea Villar Andrea Villar Journalist and Industry Analyst