Public space in the Mexican cities of today
Wrriten by: Rosalba Rojas | April 12, 2019
Everyone has a right to the city. As architects, we share a responsibility for designing with spatial justice and the common good in mind, creating spaces as extensions of the city rather than as isolated spaces that create divisions.
A city is a place of mixed uses, flows, social strata… There is no space more democratic and everyday than the street, where different realities constantly interact. Some years ago, Latin American society lived in security, and social life took place in the streets, city squares, parks, and sports fields. There was continual social interaction and casual encounter among trees, lawns, fountains, and formal and informal commerce.
Over the years, this situation has changed, and unfortunately worsening security, greater population density and the decline in per capita public space have created a new urban reality. This makes even more obvious the responsibility of the private sector to take decisions and actions that contribute democratic, open and safe spaces to the city.
Today’s society continues to seek the values that prevailed in those spaces: security, interaction and the construction of community. These values induce human attitudes and feelings that are wholly natural, timeless and universal. The human need for interaction can never be replaced by digitalization nor with any other contemporary invention.
Large retail or mixed-use developments are a clear opportunity to create democratic spaces in the city. For example, in the context of Mexico, shopping centers generally fulfill the functions of public space, offering security, interaction, commerce, fun, and comfort. As a result, they are more and more popular.
But what would happen if to this retail or mixed-use development we added the desired elements that speak of the timeless sensations of the street? By this, we mean features such as open-air paths, fountains, vegetation, street furniture, food, entertainment, changes in texture, and freedom from pollution.
The result is more frequent and better quality social interaction as occurs in the Antara complex in Mexico City.
Another feature that offers added value to such urban spaces is to introduce artistic creativity in the form of sculptures, landmarks, artworks or installations, without only considering them an amenity or aimed at art connoisseurs. This means involving art as something to be experienced, enjoyed and taken in by all users, spreading culture, curiosity, and knowledge. This opens up opportunities for the range of social interaction to expand and makes a significant contribution to the common good, as is the case at ARTZ Pedregal.
These projects, although they are retail-based, have become a key to understanding how this type of architectural approach functions and serves Mexican society, encouraging integration with the city and with users.