Harvard GSD
Fall 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
with Han Ning Tsai

The project speculates the future of Los Pinos in a “post-palace” context by proposing “Neo-Common”, a historic preservation intervention which aims to recognize and reduce domestic work while redistributing the caregiving chain components and dynamics.

The site (Los Pinos) is non-negotiable and is crucial to carry the meaning of this project both symbolically and practically. When the current president of Mexico decided to open Los Pinos to the public, the symbolic move intended to end the rule of a ‘rapacious’ elite and signal a break with the excess of the political class. Therefore, one of the goals of our project is to critically examine this symbolic meaning and unveil what it truly means to appropriate the ‘house of the ruling class’ as ‘the house of the people’. As things stand today at ‘Complejo Cultural Los Pinos,’ it is unclear how ‘the people’ are truly benefiting from the opening up of this previous presidential palace. Currently, Los Pinos will receive anyone who wishes to travel through its roads and “statues galleries”, as well as enjoy its architecture and cultural events held there, specifically between 10 am and 5 pm every day (Mondays closed). How does such an inadequate spatial execution at Los Pinos, fueled by a powerful symbolic intention, enhance the lives of our user group of interest: domestic workers?

Simultaneous to opening Los Pinos to the public, Obrador revealed an ambition to improve Chapultepec Park as a whole by catering to the needs of the different users that already use different spaces of the park: older adults, children, handicapped, athletes, etc. Therefore, Opening Los Pinos to the people can be seen as a prologue to Obrador’s cultural mission which will spread to all of the property (chapultepec). The cultural hub created as a result would:

  • Be the biggest and most important cultural space in the world

  • allow people to "walk freely, reflect, analyze and enjoy the arts, culture and our history."

  • make its mark on history and help "transform" the country.

  • bring everything together in one vast space

  • reformulate accessibility and interconnectedness" with the rest of the urban core.

Yet, it is hard for us to envision how such promising goals can be accomplished when several of the main and vulnerable user groups of Chapultepec Park are being marginalized and left behind in these plans. Elite, Older adults, kids, teens, athletes, and many other user groups will have (some already have) their spaces, but why is a very specific user group like domestic workers left out? Consequently, we believe that Los Pinos, which is already an oversized and symbolic space inside chapultepec, is a perfect site for an intervention that helps recognize domestic workers.

Our preservation efforts that will dictate the spatial intervention at the Los Pinos complex attempts to take care of the existing buildings to serve the public good and specifically domestic workers. We are not interested in preserving the architecture of this previous presidential palace, but rather in following a radical subtractive approach to preservation which aims to reveal what was not seen before. As Paul S. Byard (former director of the historic preservation program at Columbia) believed, “preservation is a progressive art form, an intellectual and design challenge of the very highest level”. We intend to illustrate the idea that preservation itself is a forward-thinking celebration of life, that it is a way of looking at something that seems to be fading or gone and incubating new life within it.

From that starting point, the project envisions two types of users: permanent inhabitants of the complex that have no place to live in the city yet serve a large portion of the city’s GDP (such as domestic workers) and other non-permanent visitors that are trying to strengthen their networks of solidarity and increase their resources in the city (also Domestic workers). Regardless of user type, the space aims to incubate a large portion of the city’s population that is adding tremendous yet unrecognized value to the city. With practical, spatial, and resourceful needs being core components of the project, the intervention is a symbolic celebration of domestic workers as an irreplaceable user group crucial to Mexico City moving forward.

Moreover, the programmatic set up which existed before the opening of Los Pinos was a private, inward, and oversized configuration synonymous with desperate representation of power and authority. The Bedrooms, dining rooms, basement theatres, bowling spaces, dental offices, tennis courts, swimming pools, and golf courses are some of the spaces characteristic of this highly privatized set up. As a main spatial intention, the project aims to reverse this reality by creating a space that belongs to all. programmatic parallels are drawn from medieval living typologies, where people dwelled together and the idea of nuclear family living was non existent. This resulted in a strong emphasis on communal spaces that eased the ability to produce and reproduce in the same space, something our project aims to achieve.

To achieve this, the design breaks the fragmented and highly privatized set up of the Los Pinos buildings through a circular loop that that extends on the site cutting through the existing fabric, forming a new spatial configuration which serves both intended users. The perfect circle geometry becomes a tool for recognizing that wherever you are on the site,you know that your part of the whole. This permeable spine serves the intention of making Los Pinos public by activating most of the existing buildings. This is accomplished because a circle has no direction, and angle, and hence no hierarchy. The strategic location of the circle on site is then dictated by a location that capture most of the existing fabric, trying to create the most through a minimal footprint.
By creating a space for all with no hierarchies while still maintaining private / public aspects which allow for two types of users to coexist, a spatial challenge poses itself: how can the inhabitants of the site maintain their private spatial needs while still being part of the whole (where to sleep and where not to)? Therefore, the design aims to explore communal typologies at different scales to answer this question. The intention to reduce the size of the coliving spaces is paralleled by efforts to highlight and maximize larger communal spaces which can serve as a stitching component for both user groups. Communal kitchens for example can be a tool for recognizing reproduction because the inhabitants of the site can utilize them not only for themselves, but to provide a community canteen service for the visitor user group as well as others in the inhabitant user group (recognizing, reducing, and redistributing domestic work).