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Tecoloxtitlan Utopia / Interactive Observatory of Subsidence and Fracture in Iztapalapa

Estudio RX- Research and Degree Seminar at the Faculty of Architecture UNAM

Mexico City, Mexico

June 2020


Gabriela Carrillo Valadez (chief designer/Leading teacher) / Loreta Castro Reguera (Leading Teacher) / Eric Valdez Olmedo (structural design)


Daniel Huerta, Fernando Rodríguez, Paredes Kevin, Rivera José Antonio, Rodríguez Melanie, Flores Mariel, Rodriguez José Juan, Salazar Dalia Lizeth, Domínguez Roberto, Quiroz Isabela, Hernández César, Izgar Ximena


Arq. Raúl Basulto Luviano, Director General de Obras y Desarrollo Urbano, Alcaldía Iztapalapa


Rafael Gamo / Aldo Díaz / Alberto Sainz


The property with a very low load capacity, two important cracks passing through the middle of it and a series of subsidence that generated differences in levels greater than four meters in height, were the territory where a Garden was developed accompanied by a social- community with workshop services, recreational and sports areas as well as serving as a communication and cultural tool on the subject of cracked soils for the Iztapalapa community.
The master plan was defined hand in hand with the community and the construction "safe sites", thus establishing the structures of porticoes, kiosks, temazcal and museum under an extremely light structural typology with a concentrated foundation that strengthens the stability of the system, separating from existing cracks. The materials that provided this lightness and flexibility were elements of steel and recycled water-repellent mdf, to give spatial warmth to the covered spaces, as well as a sheet to facilitate the capture of water.
The Observatory is made up of exterior and interior spaces, because of the precarious nature of the site, the proposal for its use relied, paradoxically, on highlighting its precariousness. The educational components include a locally focused museum as well as training studios where members of the community are taught how to self-build their houses and additions in earthquake proof ways.


Estudio RX, is a ninth and tenth semester Research and Degree Seminar at the Faculty of Architecture of the UNAM that addresses the intrinsic vulnerabilities to which Mexico City is subject. The initial three years were linked to geological incidents as triggers for various ways of inhabiting a place; the cracks in the ground, their effects on the landscape and the urban fabric, were the basis for formulating solutions that shape contemporary Mexico City.
At the same time, the Mayor's Office of Iztapalapa in 2019 detonated the "UTOPÍAS" program with spaces that promote care for the environment, where cultural, sports and recreational activities and workshops are offered linked to an environmental culture and local historical memory. The Mayor's Office, hand in hand with the Center for Geosciences and Dr. Dora Carreón and Mtro. Raúl Gutiérrez, both experts on cracking and subsidence issues; proposed in 2020 to take advantage of a land that housed a school and a community center in the old town of San Sebastián Tecoloxtitla, which was very affected after the earthquake of 2017.
The seminar, with its function of linking real practices to the academic topics linked to the program, developed a research project hand in hand with the projects area of the Mayor's Office and the Community to build a program that covered both objectives, as well as a project multidisciplinary to respond to the social but at the same time structural needs of this project.


Referencing pre-Hispanic traditions, observatory-like elements are included to measure the subsidence of the soil on and around the site through deep wells and calibrated mirror-structures that tie these geological shifts to broader, more cosmic events. In a more direct and visceral way, however, designed elements show those changes as they manifest in the present and over varying durations of time: a “geological window” presents the visual effects of the fault lines on the subsoil and the “retaining walls” used throughout the site to organize it are made from the rubble of the collapsed school. They are placed on and around the fault lines in a manner to stress, through their changes, the unseen yet powerful forces on the site. The built structures are equally manufactured in segments to allow for the buildings to change as they sink over time in a manner that is like how the buildings in downtown Mexico City have sunk over the last four centuries.
The garden is a fundamental component for the intervention, the opportunity to highlight and recognize the geological and natural landscape that existed in the Valley of Mexico as well as the ancient lacustrine settings now lost, will be recreated from a series of wetlands that strengthen the program. collection, treatment and reuse of water, in addition to being based on the old fallen buildings as a memorial with different programmatic objectives.

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