Four designers use context as a springboard and animate their projects with surprising material applications.
No matter what level of success Mexico City–based MMX Studio may someday attain, its name will always serve to remind its four partners of their humble beginnings. The term in Roman numerals for 2010, MMX would mark the firm's first full year in practice—“if we made it through the one-year test,” says principal Emmanuel Ramirez. The name also underscores where they come from, culturally speaking. “It refers to Mexico,” adds Ramirez. While experiences abroad helped the partners expand their thinking about architecture, “at the end of the day we are all Mexican.”
Ramirez met Ignacio Del Rio and Diego Ricalde at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Their paths crossed again when they worked at the office of Alberto Kalach, where they would meet their other partner, Jorge Arvizu. The four drifted apart, some pursuing graduate studies and jobs internationally. A competition to design the Mexican pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo brought together Ramirez and Ricalde (who were in London) with Arvizu (who was in Mexico). Their entry was a finalist. “It was a trial for working together,” says Ramirez. The four men opened up shop—without a single commission—at the end of 2009 in a small room in the Colonia Condesa neighborhood.
Responding to the limitations of the local workforce, MMX's designs employ simple materials and construction techniques. “We are not interested in innovating with material,” says Ramirez. “We are interested in using everyday materials in different ways.” The team explores form making by designing installations with such things as wine bottles and credit cards. On larger-scale work they have employed poured concrete, concrete masonry units, and brick—with which local work crews are well versed—as some of their principal building blocks. But as with their smaller projects, they find surprising uses for nontraditional materials. For the firm's first commission, the interior of Condesa's trendy MeroToro restaurant, the architects animated the space with a wall made of reclaimed railroad ties. And they created a shading device on a rooftop deck for a private residence with swaths of burlap, which is typically used for rice or coffee sacks. To pursue investigations on a larger scale, the team, which was awarded the Architectural League of New York's Prize for Young Architects + Designers this year, regularly enters domestic and international competitions.
MMX's designs emerge as responses to their surroundings. “We don't like to think of our work as objects,” says Ramirez. “We need to engage with the context rather than just making forms.” This approach is evident in the plan of the Santa Catarina house, which took cues from a magnificent laurel tree in the middle of the plot. Similarly, the team's idea for its Eco Pavilion, which is composed of rope and steel chain, took shape as an extension of the existing art museum whose courtyard it occupies. To ensure a consistency in their work, one of the partners is assigned to lead each project, but all four participate in the design sessions. “We focus on the strategy and principles rather than formal solutions,” says Ramirez.
Today MMX and its 10 or so designers occupy an old rowhouse in Condesa. As they take on larger commissions—they are now designing a 24-unit housing development and a master plan for a K–12 campus—keeping their sights trained on the local influences that are right in front of them will continue to define their work in an increasingly global world.
|Photo: Courtesy MMX Studio|
The MMX team (clockwise from top left): Jorge Arvizu, Ignacio Del Rio, Diego Ricalde, Emmanuel Ramirez.
DESIGN STAFF: 10
PRINCIPAL: Jorge Arvizu, Ignacio Del Rio, Emmanuel Ramirez, Diego Ricalde
EDUCATION: Arvizu: Iberoamerican University (UIA), M.CM, 2011; UIA, B.A., 2004. Del Rio: National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), B.A., 2001. Ramirez: The Bartlett, London, M.Arch., 2005; UNAM, B.A., 2001. Ricalde: The AA, London, M.Arch., 2009; UNAM, B.A., 2001.
WORK HISTORY: Arvizu: Alberto Kalach, 2000–02; TEN Arquitectos, 1998–99. Del Rio: Molestina Architekten, 2007–08; Alberto Kalach, 2002–06. Ramirez: David Chipperfield, 2007–09; SOM, 2005–07. Ricalde: LBC, 2004–07; HH Architekturbüro Schaan, 1998.
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: NP Installation, New York City, 2012; FNO Pavilion, 2011; Eco Pavilion, 2011; TEA Terrace, 2010; CSC House, Morelos, Mexico, 2010; MeroToro Restaurant, 2009
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: CAP House, 2012; ERV Pavilion, 2012; DRL Housing Development, 2013; CM Master Plan, 2015
WEB SITE: www.mmx.com.mx