Luis Aldrete's collaborative practice elevates the quotidian

Emerging Voices 2018

Luis Aldrete's collaborative practice elevates the quotidian

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights.

2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien.

AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Estudio de Arquitectura founder Luis Aldrete will deliver his lecture on March 22, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

Luis Aldrete’s Guadalajara, Mexico-based practice, founded in 2007, works across a variety of scales and types, from small public facilities to housing towers.

“We like to work directly with those executing our designs to create what would otherwise be impossible,” architect Luis Aldrete explained, describing the hand-in-glove relationship his elemental practice has with the workers who build his projects. “What we can achieve using mostly our hands is incredible.”

Because some builders do not know how to read and write, the architect will typically take a more proactive role in directing construction and coordinating tradespeople—and not just by spending extra time on-site. Aldrete synergizes his design sensibilities with what his workers can produce. “We don’t believe in detail drawings,” Aldrete said. “For us, [overwrought] construction details represent a type of over-design. Instead of producing complicated detailing, we like to focus on precision in construction.”

The buildings Aldrete designs, like the series of poetically spare shelters in the Mexican state of Jalisco he designed in conjunction with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao along the Pilgrim Route, are quick to show off that precision. The cooling shelters, long and wedge-shaped, are designed with solid adobe-colored concrete-block walls that dematerialize as they rise. They dot the pilgrimage route, offering respite from the heat while providing water and camping facilities.

BF Residence (Onnis Luque)

“Some people intellectualize architectural discourse too much,” Aldrete said. “We like working on quotidian concerns, like shade and rest, instead. The way one can provoke life in common spaces is inspiring.” The architect and his half-dozen or so employees have more than a handful of projects in the pipeline, including a trio of apartment towers slated for a rapidly urbanizing section of the otherwise flat city of Guadalajara, as well as several moody single-family homes and a series of social housing complexes across the region. These low-slung masonry complexes typically feature monolithic punched openings, structurally dependent massing, and pockets of interconnected and shared outdoor spaces.

The 15-story concrete-frame towers, on the other hand, are more platonic in their forms and create a triangular courtyard between one another, leaving a large percentage of the site open for public spaces and gardens. The exoskeleton for each of the gridded towers creates shade for the units within, which are designed as spare and variously lit quarters. Like several of the firm’s projects, the 132-unit development is guided by a “love and passion for ruins,” as Aldrete said. “Some of our work looks like ruins, and we like that.”