Like most Mexican architects of their generation and just about all North American architects that have started their practice in the last ten years, Dellekamp arquitectos have made housing a cornerstone of their work. What sets the firm apart is a fervent dedication to improving social housing in a country overrun by rapacious developers in collusion with corrupt government officials. Founded in Mexico City in 1999, the studio’s most important project currently on the boards is a project in Tlacolula, Oaxaca, which just began construction. “Most social housing is money-driven,” said principal Derek Dellekamp, “but we were convinced you could make it a business and achieve a high sustainability point.” Noting that the site rested on the outskirts of town, the architects programmed basic services into the project, such as a school and market. They also studied the local historical architecture, some of the most celebrated in Mexico, and emulated its vernacular in their designs.
This careful consideration of context runs through all of Dellekamp’s work. The firm’s CV spells it out nicely: “We deliberately allow for outside influences to shape the design.” This can be hard work in Mexico City, which changes so rapidly it makes New York City look like the Roman forum. One exception is Polanco, a neighborhood north of Chapultepec Park that enjoys greater stability thanks to its mansions and luxury apartments built in the 1950s. Dellekamp designed two apartment buildings across the street from each other for different clients, cb29 and cb30. Both respond to the neighborhood’s midcentury modern architecture with their clean lines and copious use of glass. What separated them in terms of the architects’ approach was the character of the clients. The developers of cb29 were in their 60s, and that building has a conservative, cloistered feel. But for the thirtysomethings who commissioned cb30, Dellekamp boldly faced the building front and back with unbroken planes of transparent glass. Without spandrel units, this facade not only reveals what the apartments’ occupants might be up to, it also gives passersby a peek-a-boo view of the building’s structure itself.