Mexico's Traditional Architecture is Disappearing — This Project Is Seeking to Keep it Alive

Mexico's Traditional Architecture is Disappearing — This Project Is Seeking to Keep it Alive - More Images+ 36

Traditional Mexican housing is being transformed by a number of factors, namely the urbanization of rural areas, the disruption of public information, the loss of the environmental consciousness, and housing policies that downplay the importance of traditional means of construction in favor of more industrial methods -- the likes of which generate false aspirations that redefine the concept of a dignified living space.

This is driving the loss of both tangible and intangible national heritage, namely the architectural values developed by the native peoples of the country over the centuries. In other words, it's not only the architectural heritage at risk of disappearing but also the centuries of knowledge built from everyday living spaces and their relationship with the territory that they inhabit.   

Mosaico tipológico: casa en San Felipe. Yucatán. 2016.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

“Typology: The Current State of Traditional Housing in Mexico” is a project by  Investigación Activa Participativa (IAP) that documents and analyzes the relationship between territory, living space, community, the management of natural resources and the architectural traditions of pre-hispanic cultures, while at the same time emphasizing the transformation that has taken place under economic, cultural, environmental, and political motives. 

Mosaico tipológico: casa mixe. Coatlán, Oaxaca. 2017.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

Our country's architectural tradition is built on territorial comprehension, food production, and construction, all of which have become the objects of study for architects, designers, anthropologists, geographers, and sociologists. In other words, behind the study of living space, we can better understand the evolution of cultures and what drives it.    

Mosaico tipológico: cocinas tzeltales. Tenejapa, Los Altos de Chiapas. 2016.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

The native peoples of Mexico were able to generate a contextualized, functional, and appropriate architectural style for every region, leaving behind a legacy of values that translate into current architectural practices. 

Systemic Thought: Traditional dwellings are the result of meticulous observation and the resulting understanding of complex geographic, hydrological, meteorological, social, economic, productive, and cultural factors that impact their construction. 

Mosaico tipológico: casa de piedra. Vallecillo, Nuevo León. 2017.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

Suitability: Traditional architecture is characterized by, not only its synchronization with the surrounding environmental, cultural, and social context but also its ability to last, as identified by the architect Carlos Gonzalez Lobo. This means that the construction systems are complex enough that they work in sync with their environment and in a way that will stand the test of time.  

Mosaico tipológico: casa maya. Yaxcopil, Yucatán. 2016.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

Territoriality: Homegrown architecture maintains a connection and dialogue with the territory in which it resides. In this sense, basic territorial unity (solar) means that all the elements of a dwelling, from the structures to the surrounding environment, allow for activities that contribute to its protection, productivity, and overall liveability.

Retrato de pobladores. Casa Mixe. Coatlán, Oaxaca. 2018.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

Communal feeling: The processes related to obtaining and producing materials. Also, that the construction of traditional housing maintains its viability through the communal practices (sharing the load) promoted by the people who build and reside within these living spaces. Communal building implies collectivity, mutual help, dispersal of knowledge, skill development, and the search for community well-being. 

Casa en Galeana. Nuevo León. 2017.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

The mission of "Typologies: The Current State of Traditional Housing in Mexico" is to bring forward the voice of the native population and demonstrate their architectural traditions and knowledge. The objectives of the project are as follows:

Retrato de pobladores. Casa Maya. Yaxcopil, Yucatán. 2017.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

  • Produce knowledge through collective and democratic means. In other words, become facilitators to collect and organize the knowledge found in localities. 

  • Document the historical transformation that rural communities are undergoing. 

  • Promote the participation of the residents in the investigation of their communities through dialogue and reflection.

  • Give the information gathered back to the communities so that they may use it to make future decisions about their living spaces. It is their knowledge and traditions, so this step is essential. 

  • Reflect on what we have learned throughout the investigation.

  • Recognize traditional wisdom and promote the image of the community members as generators of knowledge. 

  • Demonstrate the impact of housing policies, land management, and environmental well-being on the community inhabitants.

Casa en la costa. San Felipe, Yucatán. 2017.. Image © Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordoñez

The investigation is separated into regions (southeast, northeast, midwest, and northwest) and will be presented in the "Houses For All" Exposition presented by the Institut für Auslandsbezienhungen IFA (German Institute for Foreign Relations) in Stuttgart during April 2019.

Authors: Pobladores de las comunidades + Onnis Luque + Mariana Ordóñez
Collaborators: Jesica Amescua
Starting year: 2016

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Cite: Mariana Ordoñez y Onnis Luque. "Mexico's Traditional Architecture is Disappearing — This Project Is Seeking to Keep it Alive" [Tipologías: Estado actual de la vivienda tradicional en México] 29 Aug 2018. ArchDaily. (Trans. Johnson, Maggie) Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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