Rojkind Arquitectos' R432 tower in Mexico City is a shining example of the region's architectural experimentation
The boundaries of cutting edge architecture in Mexico City have been extending year on year since LAR / Fernando Romero presented the gleaming Museo Soumaya back in 2007. Completed in March this year, the concave art museum has become a beacon on the skyline of the city, inviting both aspiring and experienced architects to test their ingenuity in what is slowly emerging as the new design playground of the daring.
As 2009 came to a close, Foster + Partners unveiled the colour-banded concept for the Campus Biometrics, the practice’s first structural design in Mexico. At the time, senior architect at Foster + Partners Nigel Dancey explained that not only was this concept breaking new ground for the firm but it was expanding the horizons of Mexico City: “The project will help safeguard the recharging of the aquifer supplying much of Mexico City and protect indigenous plant and animal species, as well as the important geological formations found on the site.”
On 22nd June, local architects Rojkind Arquitectos celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony of their most recent composition, R432, which is due to take pride of place on one of Mexico City’s most prestigious streets, Reforma Avenue. Ascending 54 floors from a 70 sq m base, the glittering tower sports a concertinaed facade which extends and retracts into angular divots in direct opposition to the soft folds of the City’s most recently completed cultural monument – Museo Soumaya.
Within the rippling form will be 28 floors of residential units, 12 levels of offices with associated parking, 3 floors offering luxury restaurants and retail facilities, with 5 basement levels reserved for residential parking. Located on the top 10 floors will be entertainment and leisure facilities to cater to the needs of R432’s residents, including a gym, swimming pool, spa area, and jogging track.
As Mexico City continues its creative development, architects and designers appear to be taking inspiration from more and more unlikely sources. In this case, Rojkind Arquitectos have been stimulated by the writings of French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, whose critical piece ‘Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter’ explores the comparative constituents of a number of natural materials, on both physical and figurative levels.
In the opening to his theoretic examination, Bachelard argues: “‘Images’ whose basis or matter is water do not have the same durability and solidity as those yielded by earth, by crystals, metals, and precious stones. They do not have the vigorous life of fire images...To be deceived by river mirages, a soul must be quite disturbed. These gentle water phantoms are usually linked to the sham illusions of a beguiled imagination seeking entertainment. The phenomena of water lit by a spring sun thus provide the common, easy, and abundant metaphors that inform second-rate poetry.
“We cannot be captivated by such images, not even natural ones. The do not awaken in us the profound feeling that equally common fire and earth images evoke. Because they are elusive, they give only a fleeting impression. A glance toward the sunlit sky and we are filled with the certitudes of light; an inner decision, an unexpected urge, and we give ourselves up to the earth and its will, to the positive tasks of digging and building.”
The explanation given by R432’s architects is that this complex piece of critical theory has inspired the interior layout of the building volume, dividing the internal space into zones identified by specific themes recognised by Bachelard including smells, sounds, colours and so forth. These include Metal, Crystal, Water, Stone, and Seeds.
If one delves a little further it may be suggested that the designers are in fact interacting with the philosopher’s text on a deeper level, the rippling building concept the a direct response to Bachelard’s considerations on the materiality and density of so-called water ‘phantoms’. The swells in the glass façade may also be read as a reflection of the writer’s argument that ‘violent water is a schema for courage’: a courageous building for what is gradually becoming an architecturally fearless city.