VLK Architects

Mextropoli: Now Boarding

“Don’t go to Paris. Don’t tour Paris. And please don’t do Paris. Live in Paris…. Don’t go to LA, don’t go to New York, don’t go to Tokyo; Live There. Live in Malibu, live in the East Village, live in Shinagawa; Feel at home, Anywhere”. Airbnb's new campaign embodies my life philosophy when I travel and feeds my hunger to travel even more.

Living in a new place, even for a short period of time, allows you to experience and understand the city on a deeper level than merely visiting. The difference between the two is mindset. Are you looking to understand a culture and how people live? Are you looking to find restaurants off the beaten path? Are you looking to learn how a city’s streets and public spaces interact? These are all components of living in a city. The central theme in living is the people and their interactions. How people live in each city is unique to the place and is the most interesting to me; this is why I travel. While landmarks and tourist attractions are important and they make up the human experience, (I would never visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or New York City without seeing Times Square), I have a passion for the city and its people on a deeper level.

In March, I was given the opportunity to live in Mexico City for five days for an architecture conference titled Mextropoli. This event was filled with lectures, workshops, and installations around the city showcasing Latin America’s architecture, but focusing on the city as a whole. The lectures varied and drew crowds from around the world; the speakers spanned from the former Mayor of Barcelona, to architecture critics, and all the way to the Pritzker Prize winner, Peter Zumthor. The unique collection of speakers allowed for the event to tackle the concept of the city from multiple angles. I left the event feeling inspired, thinking more about architecture, and the city from new perspectives.

This inspiration bled right into my passion for the work I do on a daily basis. Our clients interact with the spaces we design, similar to the way I interacted with Mexico City; the many overlapping factors create unique opportunities for educational spaces that blur the line of public and private zones. How can we design spaces blurring this line that foster curiosity, citizenship, and a drive to create a better tomorrow?

While the conference was the main purpose of my visit, exploring Mexico City was equally invigorating. Being from El Paso, Texas, I had traveled to Mexico before, but only to border cities like Juarez and Puerto Palomas. The experience of Mexico City was vastly different. The city became magical. The public spaces, along with people’s interactions and customs, were nuanced in a way that I could sit and watch them all day. I couldn’t help but imagine I was back in school with an assignment to study, document, and create diagrams of the spaces for use in a city intervention project. As questions and ideas came to mind, I was reminded that I am not in school, and anything I create now is for personal study and the client; this was a wonderful revelation that excited me about my potential and future as an architect and designer.

As I headed to the airport and watched various parts of Mexico City pass by, I began to think, “Could I live here? Did I live here?” I think the answer is yes to both. The combination of self-exploration and conference guidance allowed me to see parts of the city every tourist sees while getting a glimpse into a more dynamic, less traveled city. The travel home from any trip always brings a mix of emotions, and this one was no different. I was sad about the trip being over, tired from long days and longer nights, and ready to see my pup, Bella, but my eagerness to get back to work and apply that all I learned outweighed my sadness and exhaustion. I was ready to rethink how our projects are designed to make a larger impact on our clients and the communities we serve.