LA 204: Mexico City Design Studio, UC Berkeley 2010
Enmeshing Mexico City: Rethinking Mexico City's Infrastructure within an Ecological Framework
About the Course: Meshing Mexico City is a landscape architecture design studio that will be taught by Professor Walter Hood and assisted by doctoral student Robert Lemon at the University of California, Berkeley. The studio aims to develop new design strategies for Mexico City’s urban growth as it relates to water. Insufficient drinking water and tainted flood waters are two critical problems that the urban poor of Mexico City face on a regular basis. This landscape design studio will take eleven students to Mexico City for ten days to introduce them to Mexico City’s cultural landscapes, urban infrastructure, and hydrological processes. Students will make site visits to award-winning ecological parks, historical landmarks, and to Xochimilco where water resources and flooding is a major concern of everyday life for the urban poor. Students will then collaborate in design charrettes with landscape architecture students and professors at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) as well as with renowned Mexican landscape architect Mario Schjetnan. Students will then return to Berkeley where they will further their ideas and design concepts for the remainder of the semester. Their process and final work will be compiled into a source book for the profession of landscape architecture.
Project Results: The landscape architecture design studio aimed to develop new design strategies for Mexico City's urban growth as it relates to water. Insufficient drinking water and tainted flood waters are two critical problems that Mexico City faces daily. This studio posited urban infrastructure at the intersection of hydrological, ecological, and cultural processes. It challenged students to rethink single performance urban infrastructure as to how it could morph into dynamic landscape systems.
The course was about exploring an environmental/development issue in Mexico City as well as culturally engaging with the landscape architecture students at UNAM. Midway through the semester UC Berkeley students visited Mexico City to see first hand the city's built environment and its relationship to water. While in Mexico City, Berkeley graduate students were paired with undergraduate students at UNAM for a three-day design charrette. The students were introduced to the Antonio district of Mexico City where a contaminated creek, a central community, and a highway overpass confluence. The students were asked to propose design interventions so water could be captured, cleaned, circulated, and celebrated. Using drawing as a means of dialogue, students were able to exchange ideas and communicate through a design language.
Students were also introduced to the cultural rhythms of Mexico City. In addition to a tour of the historical center, students had free days for independent wanderings and cultural gatherings. The cultural explorations were not considered an outside aspect of the studio, but rather central to the conceptual underpinnings of the course. Thus students were encouraged to embody cultural processes and express them through considerate design. Some of the areas the students toured were Coyocar, Chapultepec Park, Museum of Anthropology, Luis Barragon's house, Frida Kahlo's house and/or the Pyramids of Teotihuacan.