Mexico City and the Production of Housing

Introduction: Mexico City is one of the most dynamic and complex metropolitan areas in the world today. With over 20.1 million inhabitants, remarkable urban growth, an active, yet dual economy and a palimpsest of material histories centuries-old, it is quite a case study for architecture and urban planning today. The fact that the city grows by more than 160,000 people every year represents a huge urban challenge for the production of housing, infrastructure and services.With an important housing deficit, Mexico City will keep building close to a 100,000 units of housing every year, almost half of those produced through the informal sector and self-built processes. In the past fifteen years, the bulk of housing production has taken place in the peripheries of the city, manifested in a low-rise, low-density, mono-use carpet of single-family housing.In recent years, an effort by government authorities has been made to transform the paradigm of housing through the promotion of DUIS (integrated Sustainable Urban Developments). This incentive-based certification system, based on the notion of developing sustainable urban environments and not just housing, has yet to produce its first inner-city project. Mexico City has a history of massive housing projects.

This studio will critically reassess the notion of large-scale developments and their relationship with the city. The guiding premise is that innovation in our approach towards density, land use, transportation, size of lots and scale of projects, flexibility, construction, domestic space as well as social engagement can produce not only better housing but also a different urbanity and performance that addresses the new social, economic, ecological and programmatic imperatives of the contemporary city.Taking our cues from a series of innovative experiments that range from Previ in Peru to Elemental in Chile, as well as from recent urban housing projects in Europe and Asia, the studio will establish new protocols for the production of housing in Mexico City. The studio is interested in finding not only what is unique or relevant to housing in Mexico City today, but also how these issues build up knowledge about cities in general and the architectural practice in particular. The studio will actively interact with local government institutions, developers and architects engaged in the policy, planning and design of housing in the city. We will deal with the multiple planning, urban design and architecture scales so participation from students from all departments is desired.

Methodology: The Mexico City Housing Studio is based on a collaborative approach of addressing the problems of contemporary urban housing by involving, in the process of teaching and learning, the multiple stakeholders in the production of housing. The purpose of the studio is to explore the challenges and opportunities of producing new large-scale projects of urban housing through the territorial densification of central areas of Mexico City and to innovate in the planning, the policies and the design aspects of housing. The studio hopes to discover ways to overcome the current obstacles for redensification and to provide a discussion platform for a wide range of ideas with different consequences and usefulness for authorities, developers and designers engaged in the production of housing.

Structure of the course: During the first stage of the studio, the students and will research a number of housing case studies where there has been innovation in policies, in urban strategies, in architectural design and in sustainability approaches, both in historical and contemporary projects in different parts of the world.