For decades, Luis Barragán has been a name synonymous with Mexican architecture, but today a new generation of equally talented Mexican architects are making a name for themselves both at home and abroad. Tapping into their heritage, embracing local materials and craftsmanship, employing strong interior and exterior connections, and putting people first, they are designing striking residences, sustainable housing developments, cultural institutions, and urban interventions from Mexico City to Lyon, France. Here are six of the top names to know.
1. Cadaval & Solà-Morales
Husband and wife team Eduardo Cadaval and Clara Solà-Morales formed their eponymous firm in 2003. They initially set up the studio in New York City after graduating from Harvard before moving their offices to their respective places of origin—Mexico City and Barcelona—in 2005. “We enjoy this duality between two very different places,” Cadaval said in Synthesis and Containment, a documentary about the multi-award winning firm. From Casa de la Roca, a single-story Y-shaped residence in the forested Valle de Bravo, to the Sunflower House, a geometric cliffside home that points its ten volumes to different views of the Mediterranean on Spain’s Costa Brava, and housing projects in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma neighborhood, their work shares a considered restraint. This understated quality originates from an architecture that is grounded in place, that ends up speaking volumes. “That’s one of the hallmarks of the work,” says landscape architect James Corner in the documentary film. “It’s incredibly simple and yet it’s unusual and powerful at the same time.”
Their work shares a restraint, originating from an architecture that is grounded in place, that ends up speaking volumes.
2. Ezequiel Farca + Cristina Grappin
With offices in Mexico City, LA, and Milan, Ezequiel Farca + Cristina Grappin count among their projects a 5,000-square-foot townhouse in Venice Beach, California, a Mezcal bar inside a landmark building in Oaxaca, and a Benetti yacht. Numerous residential projects include the Magnolia House, a Mexico City residence incorporating Veracruz travertine, marble, and exotic wood, as well as the eight-bedroom Vallarta House in Puerto Vallarta, which features walls in concrete and natural stone, and sweeping views. The threads running through all their work are impeccable attention to detail, strong interior and exterior connections, warmth, timelessness, and craftsmanship. Inspired by their Mexican heritage, the duo and their team of 30 works with traditional artisans and local materials to create contextual designs. Farca, an architect who initially trained as an industrial designer, began the firm in 1995 designing furniture. Today, he and Grappin, who joined in 2016, employ a holistic approach through the integration of architectural, interior, and furniture design.
3. Taller Héctor Barroso
Led by 37-year-old Héctor Barroso, this young studio, founded in 2010 and based in Mexico City, already has a poetic portfolio of projects under its belt. Entre Pinos, part of the official selection for Echoes of a Land, Mexico’s pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale, is a series of five weekend houses that, made from the surrounding soil, appear as silent volumes merging with one another and the landscape. As is witnessed by LC701, a six-unit housing project in Mexico City, and Toucan House, comprising a series of staggered concrete pavilions shaped by the uneven topography of the plot, Taller Héctor Barroso’s projects see nature itself—wind, light, sound, silence—become as much a part of the structure as the exquisite layering of natural materials.
4. Fernanda Canales
Recipient of the Architectural League of New York’s 2018 Emerging Voices award, this Mexico City-based architect is one among a growing number of Mexico’s female-led firms. Canales’ diverse practice encompasses architecture, urban design, and research. “Her built work also operates in the diverse socio-cultural field of Mexican society, from cosmopolitan Mexico City to barrios to rural social housing developments,” said the speaker in the introduction to her Emerging Voices lecture. Among her projects is Bruma House, a series of black concrete volumes—an “exploded house” as Canales describes it—positioned around a central patio and designed to disappear into the landscape. Located in Coyoacán, the Elena Garro Cultural Center transformed a listed 20th-century house into a library distinguished by its fully glazed facade framed in concrete.
5. Enrique Zozaya
The work of architect Enrique Zozaya and his firm ZAR, founded in 1986, is grounded in a very specific place. Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Zihuatanejo, with its dramatic cliffs, protected bay, ideal climate, and local materials, has shaped his work as much as the “Zihuatanejo style” has been shaped by place. Merging with the landscape, his refined residences blur the lines between interior and exterior with terraces, gardens, and infinity pools perched at the edge of the cliffs. Properties like the ca. 12,000-square-foot Casa Jaguar or the ca. 18,000-square-foot Tulum are created using traditional Zihuatanejo-style materials including palapas (a kind of thatched roof) made of dried palm leaves, decks made from Troncones stone and parota wood, and pergolas constructed from bamboo. Marking the firm’s evolution, the recently completed Casa Z, which incorporates bamboo sticks to dramatic effect, was designed by Zozaya’s son, architect Daniel Zozaya, who joined his father’s firm in 2015.
6. Tatiana Bilbao
One of Mexico’s most celebrated contemporary architects, Tatiana Bilbao set up her own practice in Mexico City in 2004. Her diverse range of projects includes a funeral home in San Luis Potosí, housing for an urban renewal project in the French city of Lyon, a museum in Spain, an affordable housing prototype presented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015, and a biotech university building. There have also been a number of private home commissions including a mirrored vacation home in the forest at Monterrey, Mexico, a rammed-earth home in Jalisco, and Ventura House, a single-family home made up of cantilevering clustered modules overlooking Monterrey. She’s also designed a Solo House and collaborated on projects in China and Mongolia with artist Ai Weiwei. Her projects are shaped by the site and the people who inhabit it.