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    This practice put the ‘unity’ back in ‘community’

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    Common Unity by Mexico-based architectural firm, Rozana Montiel Estudio de Arquitectura, has been named winner of the 2018 Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize for emerging architecture.

    The public space rehabilitation project comprises a series of courtyards in the middle of a 7,000-person social housing complex in Mexico City. Over the years, residents of the complex had covered up the building’s original common areas with walls, fences and temporary coverings such as tarp for personal gatherings and parties.

    Although these barriers allowed inhabitants to extend their private areas, they prevented them from benefiting from shared public spaces.  

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    “The goal was to transform a ‘divided apartment unit’ into a ‘neighbourhood COMMON-UNIT’ by designing with the community and not just for the community through the implementation of several actions,” the architects note.

    “The project’s strategy was to work with the barriers created by its inhabitants: to permeate them, to democratise them and to grant them new meaning in order to create UNITY within the unit.”

    Working with the residents, the design team installed roofed modules that created areas for recreation and coexistence. These module facades are equipped with and for different activities, including blackboards, climbing walls, handrails and nets.

    According to Architect Magazine, new paving provides safe, easy-to-clean surfaces, while the steel structures with corrugated metal roofs offer shade. At the same time, a multi-purpose room with brick walls was built, today acting as a library for the children in the community.

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    Together, these new ‘insertions’ into the housing complex ‘rescued’ the public areas, which act as extensions of each unit. This was a strategy Rozana Montiel Estudio de Arquitectura says was particularly effective as it created a sense of ownership:

    “People got together to contribute to redesign their unit and the change in public perception achieved was such that the neighbours themselves requested the fences be removed.

    “The space spoke for itself and the unit’s inhabitants decided to eliminate all barriers and to profit from exterior spaces, thus filling them with public and common life.

    Photography by Sandra Pereznieto, courtesy of Rozana Montiel Estudio de Arquitectura.

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