Iñaki Echeverria
Architect and Urbanist
Iñaki Echeverria
View from the Top

Unlocking the Potential of Multifunctional Infrastructure

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:32

Q: What is the Mexican market demanding from Iñaki Echeverria?
A: 2017 was a good year for the definition of some projects. We delivered five parks for a private corporation as part of their social responsibility agenda, including one of particular importance in Coatzacoalcos. We participated in social infrastructure projects as well as in purely conceptual and design projects, such as facades for the Liverpool department store. The market demands straightforward solutions that innovate in infrastructure. I believe that as the discussion for social and sustainable infrastructure is becoming increasingly important, Iñaki Echeverria serves as a node in which experts converge to solve problems. We specialize in asking the right questions and coordinate multidisciplinary teams to solve them.
Q: How does your process of asking the right questions help you turn ideas into unique approaches to every project?
A: The right question to ask varies significantly from one project to another because our goal is to provide tailor-made solutions. We focus on how to tap into the potential of a project to become “more” and all it can provide in addition to its main purpose. Instead of a specific solution to a problem we understand projects as opportunities to maximize potential and for innovation. We analyze as many factors and shape it to become much more than what it was meant to be. For example, we designed a sports center in Atlacomulco in the State of Mexico where its beautiful lakes double as a passive water-treatment plant for the community. I believe that the way to harness the full potential of infrastructure is through design.
Our research has led us to interesting opportunities that we have not been able to fully capitalize yet. We have been conducting research on intensive vertical agriculture for several years, seeking to develop a pilot program. But because these ideas require more development and institutional mechanisms to support them, it is difficult to materialize them, regardless of the interest of private investment funds. We are also striving to advance in multifunctional infrastructure development since the country should no longer afford to design projects to serve one sole purpose. For example, the second floor of Mexico City’s Periférico is a controversial development, as it represented a considerable investment that only focused on private transportation. It is a missed opportunity to repurpose it into something that could benefit the rest of the population. It could include a route to carry optical fiber or as a solar energy generator. If properly considered, the structure of the road could work as a water distribution network and treatment plant, at the same time solving the problem of its flooding.
Q: To what extent is there space for innovation and a significant mobility improvement in cities as dense as Mexico City?
A: All new projects, such as the Mexico City New International Airport (NAIM), should have a public transport strategy incorporated into their planning from conception. I also believe incentivizing people to socialize and live close to the workplace and incentivizing companies to recruit people that live close by is a good direction, as it reduces commute times and traffic. Multifunctional infrastructures could provide solutions to more than one particular problem, such as mobility. I believe an important part of opening a space for innovation comes from a design point of view that aims to break paradigms and unleash its potential. Developers must push what purpose infrastructure will serve and who its aimed for, to truly maximize its potential and take full advantage of the opportunity.
Many people do not understand the need to innovate as it may imply an extra burden to their practices. Government intervention is required to promote and foster innovation. An initiative to change the workings of the sector is not likely to come from those that profit from the status quo but rather from external agents, following an ambitious strategy for development.