The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices competition identifies leading talents in architecture and design in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Meet the eight 2016 winners that were selected for their “distinct design voices and significant bodies of realized work.”


Monterrey, Mexico

Casa Caja, Zuazua, nuevo leon, mexico.

Casa de madera, san pedro, nuevo leon, Mexico.

top: alejandro cartegena; below: Ana Cecilia Garza Villarreal.

Although the four young partners behind S-AR met at the Technical University of Monterrey in Mexico and are currently based in the historically industrial city, they have worked in architecture firms around the world. The result is a portfolio that combines weighty, often rough materials and techniques with the elegance, simplicity, and refinement of today’s modernism.

“We’ve learned a lot of things in other countries,” said principal César Guerrero, “but the work is very related to this city, not only in its materials and resources, but in the people who work in those enterprises. We try to use that knowledge about manufacturing and construction.”

S-AR’s Casa 2G in San Pedro, Mexico, utilizes handmade doors, windows, and handles, as well as imposing poured-in-place concrete walls. Outside it appears heavy, industrial, and monolithic. But walk inside and the house transforms, projecting lightness, openness to the outdoors, and a genius for permitting natural light.

Like Casa 2G, most S-AR projects have the advantage of custom materials and resources and employ a healthy mixture of natural and manmade elements. Their Casa Madera, also in San Pedro, is the first domestic building in the city to be made completely of wood. Giant sheets of glass were produced locally in the biggest glass factory in Mexico.

The young partners are not content to work on one type of building or scale. They also create architectural installations, furniture, design objects, and publications. Their triangular chair transforms one medium-density-fiberboard sheet into triangular pieces that create a contained seating area; their CB container reinterprets a traditional basket in steel mesh; and their book Macroplaza 20.30 explores interventions to transform a public space in Monterrey.

“Architecture has great possibilities to create knowledge,” noted Guerrero. “It’s important to be diverse in your experimentation. And it’s more fun to keep your interest in a lot of things. One day you’re designing a public space and the next a pavilion.”

The firm has also created a nonprofit organization, Comunidad Vivex, that works with low-income residents to create houses, community centers, and other architecture. Materials are donated by local companies, and labor is provided, in part, by the future tenants themselves. Working with the organization they created Casa Caja, or Box House, in Zuazua, Mexico. It consists of concrete masonry, reinforced concrete, and a clay box, placed in the middle of the site, which leaves room for a large side patio as well as copious light and ventilation. Another box is placed at one end, containing core systems like HVAC, plumbing, and stairs. The first level contains flexible, open spaces, including room for commercial enterprises, while the second level contains private living and bedroom spaces.

“Architecture is not about the size of the buildings, it’s about the size of the ideas,” said Guerrero.