“We do architecture and also construction here in Tijuana,” Jorge Enrique Gracia Garcia, founder of the four-person architectural practice Gracia Studio, said recently. “When I started, the way I convinced the clients, I would always say that, ‘We build cheaper than any other architect in Tijuana.’ I had to build a house and build it cheap and use materials that are cheap. That’s how I got people to know me. I was cheaper.”
Gracia ended this speech, the way he ends much of what he says, with impish laughter.
He is entirely justified in doing so. If he has made headway in his field through undercutting the competition, it’s clear that that is not the only ingredient in his recipe for success. Even a cursory examination of Gracia Studio’s work reveals a strong aesthetic sense at work, guided by the precepts of modernist ideals.
After graduating from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana with degrees in architecture and international business, Gracia spent eight years working across the border in San Diego. In 2004 he returned to his hometown and founded Gracia Studio.
His first project was his own house, Casa GA, a rectilinear composition of raised wood and corrugated steel clad boxes. “People liked it,” he admitted, “so I started to get more jobs.”
Courtesy Gracia Studio
While Gracia Studio has mostly completed residential projects, the firm has been taking on an increasing amount of commercial work, including major shopping centers in La Paz, Playa Del Carmen, and Cancun. In this work, Gracia has been aided by his natural head for business. “We got hired by one client that is a developer,” he said. “They had land of 100 hectares in the middle of Mexican wine country. They wanted to sell houses there in that property, but I convinced them to build a hotel to be able to get the people to stay there over night and enjoy the nature so that they could fall in love and buy a house. That’s how we got to build a hotel.”
In addition to practicing architecture and managing the construction of his own projects, Gracia teaches at his alma mater and even hosts classes in his design studio. His goal, he said, is to improve the built environment of Tijuana for future generations.
“We want to make a difference in our city,” he said. “We’re trying to make an army of young architects, so maybe in 10 years or 20, we will really see a difference.”