Julio Amezcua and Francisco Pardo attribute their methodol-ogy to a cross-pollenization of American and Mexican ways of producing architecture. Educated at Columbia University, the duo founded their practice in Mexico City in 2001. “We’re always jumping from computers to physical models,” said Amezcua, “and we do a lot of diagrams, which in Mexico is not very common.” But their firm’s name, at103, roots it solidly to its locale: “a” stands for azotea, or rooftop, where the studio sits; “t” stands for Tiber, the name of the office’s street; and 103 is the street number. While this ego-effacing moniker was chosen to characterize the studio as a place where decision-making is shared equally and no individual has sole control, it also speaks to a studied engagement with the distinct urbanism of Mexico City.
Emblematic of this engagement is their Ozuluama project, a rooftop addition to an existing apartment building. “In Mexico City, there’s a lack of space,” said Amezcua, “so a lot of the roofs are used for extensions, but they’re not done in a proper way.” Drawn out of an analysis of the existing structure and circulation, the architects decided to create an addition appearing to be one continuous surface that resembles a nomad’s tent clad in large sheets of Corian. The project also exemplified another trait common to working in Mexico—it took four years to complete. “The other thing you always find in Mexico is you have to deal with the government and licenses, and there’s a lot of corruption,” said Amezcua. “If you want to make your project work quickly, you pay money, or you do a slow process.”
The firm’s first big breakthrough came in 2005, when the studio won a competition to design a fire station on Avenida Fenix in Mexico City’s 16th District. After scrutinizing the program, which called for government offices as well as the typical fire station facilities, the architects decided to open up the building to the public, turning the inside into a sort of public plaza where children can come to watch the firemen at work. They also conducted an analysis of the neighborhood and changed some of the traffic lights on the busy thoroughfare to create a more fluid circulation strategy for the district. This amount of care for the urban fabric sets at103 aside from most of its contemporaries, in any country.