PILARES 03 Azcapotzalco
PILARES (which stands for Puntos de Innovación, Libertad, Arte, Educación y Saberes or Innovation, Freedom, Art, Education and Knowledge Hubs) is a project of the Mexico City Government to establish spaces for education and culture that contribute to recreation, gathering and exchange among the city’s inhabitants.
The PILARES are a series of strategically located public buildings across Mexico City, sited in areas of high levels of vulnerability and poverty.
These community-oriented spaces offer areas designed for study and learning, together with free artistic, sports and recreational activities and workshops for entrepreneurship, skills and professional development. Programs include continuing education, a robotics lab, and screenprinting, electricity, cookery, and jewelry workshops, among others.
Mexico City covers an area of around 1,400 km2, a diverse and complex territory that is divided into 16 boroughs. It forms part of the Metropolitan Zone of the Valley of Mexico which has a population of almost 22 million inhabitants who lack spaces for education and cultural activities. The PILARES are established at strategic points in each of these boroughs, where poverty rates are high and access to education and culture is limited. The sites selected for their construction form landmarks in the urban fabric, enabling the population to identify them as community meeting centers that promote the regeneration of social life.
The proposal is rooted in public space: the development and activation of these hubs promotes peaceful coexistence in the communities where they are established. The basic concepts of the project are as follows.
Public space is the physical reflection of a community’s values. In the park, exchange of these values is promoted by virtue of care and coexistence. The park has an open and fluid dynamic, so the project is understood as a park with a building, an oasis within the city where what matters most is the open space, the conservation and recognition of the existing vegetation and the experiences that are originated there.
Three spatial typologies emerge: the exterior, the covered exterior—a transitional space or roofed park—and the interior. The proposal is born and lives in the intersection of these three spaces.
The architectural program is specifically designed for each location and site. Its flexibility is rooted in the identification of three different elements: the “servant” spaces for services and installations, the flexible and open space of the program and the programmers. These latter are independent, changing elements that give a particular character to the use of each space and serve to activate the project. This differentiation makes it possible to organize everything in a clear fashion, and optimize the spaces to ensure they can be used flexibly. At the same time, it leaves open the possibility for changes to the program over the lifetime of the building, allowing it to evolve and adapt freely.
- Identity and color
The use of color in Mexican architecture is an element that has been transformed and reinterpreted in the hands of different artists and architects. Color together with the material qualities endows public buildings with character and identity, while ensuring low maintenance costs by not requiring periodic recoating.
The principal material selected is exposed concrete with a ridged texture on the exterior and smooth on the interior. It was chosen for its construction and structural efficiencies as well as its thermal and aesthetic qualities. In appearance the volume is simple and compact, with a strong character that confirms its role as a public building.
PILARES 02 Álvaro Obregón and PILARES 03 Azcapotzalco are positioned on sites with similar physical characteristics: both are located at a road intersection on corner properties with existing vegetation. The arrangement of the volumes takes into account the natural elements of the site, maintaining a number of mature trees and incorporating them visually into the buildings.
The dominant diagonal of the ground floor provides clear and free-flowing pedestrian routes in any direction, inviting users to walk around the park and enter the building. The diagonal walls set in the plaza serve as a curtain and transition between the exterior and interior spaces.
The ground floor is open with the interior space marked by a lightweight glass façade that can open outwards, expanding the park space across street level, making it accessible to pedestrians and to the whole community for use as a place of encounter and to enjoy cultural and social activities.
The 1.50 x 1.50 meter grid used to modulate the structure determines different zones and orders the program, freeing up the multipurpose areas and grouping services and building facilities, which are identified by yellow boxes. These run throughout the height of the building, granting visual coherence to the complex.
The three floors are organized into four displaced platforms that are articulated around a central void that acts as a starting point for the vertical circulations while providing natural ventilation and illumination to all parts of the building. Each independent platform is connected by means of stairways and the central elevator. A number of them are further connected by ramps that also function as multipurpose spaces; others take advantage of their independence for activities that demand purpose-built spaces.
The ground floor of PILARES 02 includes an access platform that also serves as both an auditorium and staircase for cultural activities. The first floor houses the continuing education rooms on two platforms, and the second floor the robotics and cookery workshops, which includes an outdoor area for growing herbs and vegetables.
The program for PILARES 03 contemplates a multipurpose lobby, continuing education classrooms on the first two floors, and screenprinting and jewelry workshops on the upper two floors.
The sloping roof produced by the incorporation of half-stories serves as a fifth façade, with the terrace used for the generation of energy with solar panels to store solar energy for the complex.
IUA Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos in collaboration with WORKac (Amale Andraos & Dan Wood)
Azcapotzalco, Mexico City, 2020