Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, and Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica are an inclusive activist practice

Concrete Collaborations

Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, and Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica are an inclusive activist practice

Every year the Architectural League of New York recognizes eight dynamic young firms as Emerging Voices that have the potential to become leaders in the field. Historic winners like Morphosis (1983) and Toshiko Mori (1992) have become today’s lions, and practices like Johnston Marklee (2007) and Tatiana Bilbao (2010) have jumped to new heights after recent wins.

This year’s crop was selected in a two-stage portfolio competition where a jury of architects selected the winners. The deciding jury included several previous winners like Dominic Leong (2017), Fernanda Canales (2018), and Marlon Blackwell (1998), giving the process a familial feel. Laureates for 2019 come from across North America and almost all are partnerships or collaboratives—capital letters feature prominently, too. 

Ignacio Urquiza, Bernardo Quinzaños, and CCA will lecture at the Scholastic Auditorium at 130 Mercer Street, New York, New York, at 7:00 p.m. on March 7, as part of the Emerging Voices lecture series.

Bernardo Quinzaños, Ignacio Urquiza, and Mexico City–based Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica (CCA) have over a decade of experience working toward their goal of using architecture as a “tool for change.”

Since its founding in 2008, the partnership has completed over two hundred projects with the help of many interdisciplinary collaborators, including builders, contractors, and nonprofits. The firm, an organization dedicated to the “research, conceptualization, and development of architectural and urban projects,” according to the architects, combines tastefully exuberant buildings with socially driven programming—the goal being to enrich the practice of architecture. With a deep interest in local building traditions and a passion for collaboration between adjacent professionals and craftspeople, Quinzaños and Urquiza pursue building as a social and creative enterprise.

For example, the firm recently completed a new campus for the State of Mexico Boys and Girls Club, an organization for at-risk youth, comprising three spartan educational buildings linked by an arch-covered concrete walkway. Just as the human spine is made up of two dozen vertebrae, the walkway is composed of 24 pairs of intersecting concrete vaults generously proportioned for group conversation. The walkway connects classrooms and spaces for the performing arts and sports programs with a sunken amphitheater and plaza that constitute the center’s beating social heart.

Urquiza explained, “We’ve always had a particular interest in architecture that is precise, yet at the same time has the flexibility of being able to give itself to each space.” He added, “Ambiguity is what gives architecture the freedom to be owned by its users.”

Photo of Club de Niños y Niñas de México
Club de Niños y Niñas de México (Onnis Luque)

One way the parnership imbues its projects with this desired ambiguity is by creating many different kinds of covered outdoor spaces to establish architecturally focused social condensers.

In their Escuela Bancaria y Comercial Aguascalientes project, for instance, the designers invert the approach taken at the Boys and Girls Club by designing an inwardly focused campus centered on broad internal hallways and exposed single-loaded corridors. A central concrete-lined courtyard is the epicenter of consecutive circulation rings that connect formal classrooms and libraries with public living rooms to help create areas where students’ minds can wander and extended conversations can take place.

In the firm’s more conventional commercial and residential projects, the designers make skillful use of layered spaces to add a human dimension to larger-scale buildings. Casa Moulat, a wedge-shaped residential golf compound north of Mexico City, for example, uses mud-colored concrete walls to frame a pair of long-span openings that dematerialize to form a living room open to the landscape on two sides. At Casa Moulat, landscapes, materials, and buildings come together both physically and conceptually.

As Urquiza sees it, their approach is a pragmatic one: “For us, it’s very important to understand what we have available nearby and use it in a precise manner. Economy of means is a fundamental concept in our practice.”

Starting 2019, Urquiza and Quinzaños will carry on to work in independent offices: Quinzaños will remain as lead of Centro de Colaboración Arquitectónica while Urquiza will continue his practice as Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos.