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La Problematica de la Arquitectura en México


INTRODUCTION

To understand the context in which both the projects and works of this blog have been developed, it is essential to first explain the problems inherent to the practice of architecture in Mexico, beginning with our own experience. We are by no means a perfect team but we are a team that strives to learn and build upon our experiences, understanding and accepting the good and bad results that we generate as part of a creative learning process. This process is not necessarily evolutionary but procedural, a process in which we are able to value the search itself, as an exercise that results in the refining and strengthening of our craft. We understand that this road is full of hard work, responsibilities and commitments. But, we hope these words will help explain the constant effort made by all of us who participate in every executed and built project, no matter how small or large.

It is important to identify that these ideas address architecture as a social necessity, not a showcase of vanity and selfishness, but a real and sustainable contributor to the infrastructure of Mexico. We are approaching this topic from a functional, formal, technical, economic and social point of view, with a desire to impart knowledge of the professional practice of architecture in Mexico. We are specifically dissecting and commenting on architecture in this geographical area alone, not the practice as a whole.

ISSUES WITH ARCHITECTURE IN MEXICO

The main problem with the practice of architecture in Mexico is a lack of responsibility. When someone mentions the word "responsibility", we often run away or look around to see who acknowledges an error. Mistakes cost money and thus a loss of prestige and nobody wants to suffer the shame of failure. Yet it is under these circumstances that we learn the most. Of course, no one wants to make a mistake, but how else are we going to learn and grow? Our practice should involve a balance of confidence and humility, no one knows everything. We must encourage ourselves to be decisive, to bet on our successes, and to take risks, because the worst thing we can do, as architects, is to sit on the sidelines. I was discussing with Salvador Reyes, an architect and friend of mine whom I love very much, the weight of responsibility an architect must carry in any project. We concluded that the common phrase: "I like to sleep peacefully at night" utilized by some architects and builders, regarding their "perfect" and "indestructible" work is falsified. We believe that once we begin to take responsibility for our work and designs, the sleep, inevitably, is gone. We spend the night thinking, “Is it resistant enough?” “Will it look good?” “Will it work?” “What if it doesn’t work?” “Have we considered the preparation ‘x’ before applying?” “Would it be too dark?” “Will it be a properly aired space?” “Will they notice that there are some errors in the dimensions of those windows?” “Will they notice the windows are uneven?” “Do I have money enough to finish the work?” There is an endless list of concerns and challenges that would leave even the most prestigious and experienced architect sleepless.  Whenever I have the opportunity to visit one of our completed projects, I can’t help but continually review the behavior of the structure and its functionality. It is important to evaluate the results of a building over time, what worked well and what didn’t work. As architects we wish, naively, to create a structure that will last forever and it is the pursuit of this perfection that drives us.

The practice of architecture in Mexico has been, and still is, a source of significant social criticism. As architects, we should shield ourselves from such criticism by choosing to operate with honesty. Although honesty is a difficult attribute to embody and inherently provides no gray area, it is the pursuit of this trait that will provide credibility to our practice. A successful project requires collaboration between all parties involved including architects, consultants, clients, contractors and authorities. We must all work together, in harmony, and avoid blame casting. Together we are responsible for the success or failure of a project and “he that is without sin, [may] cast the first stone.”

Errors in design and/or construction often result in additional costs, a sensitive subject for society. Mistakes may be caused by a lack of experience, but it is often these inexperienced architects who bring fresh, new ideas to the industry. The key to success involves a collaboration of young and mature minds, balancing innovation and wisdom. Society should be leery however of architects who manipulate owners and abuse their trust but justify this under the crutch of being inexperienced. In my opinion this is totally reprehensible and should be punished legally.

So, what exactly is an architect responsible for? Why does society distrust architects? Why do people prefer to hire a foreman or “contractor" or directly hire craftsmen specialists? Although I’ve addressed some of those issues above, I’d like to clarify what I believe to be the specific responsibilities of an architect: managing the Design, Budget and Construction process. I consider these three basic elements essential, removing just one nullifies the very meaning of architecture. What do I need a good design for, if I don’t know how much does it cost or if I don’t know how to build it? What’s the point in knowing how to build if I don’t know how to design? What’s the point in getting an estimate for something that can’t be built? This and many other frightening combinations of questions can be asked.

Traduction by Benito Guerrier, architect.