Inside the rising Mexico City–based practice of Frida Escobedo

2017 Emerging Voices

Inside the rising Mexico City–based practice of Frida Escobedo

La Tallera, the former home and studio of painter David Alfaro Siqueiros in Cuernavaca, Mexico, is now a gallery with a distinct perforated screen. (Courtesy Rafael Gamo)

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.

The Architect’s Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. The firm featured below (Mexico City, Mexico–based Frida Escobedowill deliver their lecture on March 2, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Mexico City–based architect Frida Escobedo has only ever worked for herself. A graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and the Arts, Design, and the Public Domain program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Escobedo cofounded her first office, Perro Rojo, in 2003.   

In 2006, she began her eponymous firm, realizing a trend-setting rehabilitation and reinterpretation for the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s home and studio that utilized screened walls made up of breezeblocks. Casa Negra, built in 2007, is a slightly deconstructivist sentinel clad in black panels that straddles a bluff overlooking a rural road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca. In 2013, her studio conceived of a circular, weighted plaza sculpture for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Escobedo explained, “Our work goes from the scale of furniture to something larger.” Escobedo’s Aesop store in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood similarly plays into that teleology. In the small storefront, she manipulates the scale of objects and vistas through reflection. Bathed in an ochre light, the shop is divided by a series of reflective, glass partitions and is populated by sections of boulders and tropical Monstera deliciosa plants. Here, prismatic color and reflected silhouettes distort scale.

Casa Negra. (Courtesy Frida Escobedo)

Escobedo’s more recent work expands the senses even further. A recently completed screen at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University is crafted from Solanum steel and designed to create melodies. The rhythmic tapping made by children running sticks across railings inspired the installation—a halcyon tendency Escobedo ties to ideas of coming home. She explained that the structure is “not only perceived visually… You can play with the screen as you move along it and the closed fragments produce different sounds.” 

A rendering for social housing project, Vivienda Unfamiliar Regional INFONAVIT, Saltillo, Coahuila. (Courtesy Frida Escobedo)

Escobedo’s eight-person office is currently working on two social housing projects: One in the rural area of Taxco in the Mexican state of Guerrero will take the shape of an incremental housing scheme, while another in the town of Saltillo is made up of rowhouses. Regarding both projects, Escobedo said, “We’re trying to do as much as possible with as little as possible while also reducing as much as possible the debt of the people who are acquiring these properties,” the architect explained. The Taxco scheme will ultimately result in a fully-built out home, featuring a double-height room that can be subdivided vertically as the resident family grows. According to Escobedo, the goal of the scheme was “to optimize the subsidized credit [provided by INFONAVIT, the housing developer] by first building what is most costly and therefore what will give more value over time; and second to provide people with a finished building, that is sometimes more encouraging and gives the sense of completion.”