Architecture of the Rarely Used

Instructor: Frida Escobedo
Program: Speculating an architecture based on time: re-organizing Insurgentes 300, Mexico City
Year: Fall 2020, GSD
Studio: Domestic Orbits

Domestic Work was not always an invisibilized, female concentrated labor. They physical artifact of home only came to be associated with women and connotations of warmth, passivity, and safe space during the 19th century transition from pre-industrialization to post-indus- trialization. At the same time, “work” became associated with men. Prior to that, however, the typical wife and husband existed in the same sphere, as the process of domestic work required the labor of both sexes. For example, cooking could not be done without prior preparation which was considered as men’s work due to the amount of physical labor it required without modern day technology, and men grew the flax that women spun into linen. In other words, survival for the minimal standards of living required participation of all adults of the household in the domestic sphere. In re-ality, domestic space is as much of a space of reproduction as it is of rest: beds have to be made, clothes have to be washed and dinners must be cooked.

During the beginning of industrialization, merchants who were deal- ing with raw ma-terials started to deal with manufactured goods, and farms became factories. House-holds ceased to make their own tools and became participants in the market economy. Innovations forced families to adapt from traditional methods to new, less laborious and “efficient” tools such as the transition from the hearth to the stove. Household appliances that were seemingly advertised for its efficiency and less time taken to clean, however, only contributed to eliminating stereotypically male household work (that required strength), ultimately keeping the women in the domestic sphere, and separat-ing them from men who entered the working sphere. We also noticed a similar effect through the effects of Modernism, where rooms and spe-cifically kitchen sizes continued to become maller (Frankfurt kitchen in Germany), for efficient movement and faster completion of domestic work. We would critique, however, that such forms of kitchen isolates the female in the kitchen alone, on top of making child care and elderly care difficult. These kitchens were often closed off from the rest of the house with only one person being able to oc-cupy the space. In other words, we observed that, 
technological and economical innova-tion has continuously failed to help advance the most important element of domestic sphere-as a labour of emotion and care-giv-ing- and instead has put a false impres- sions of efficiency.

We looked at communal living as a potential model of sharing that could bring back individuals into the domestic sphere, as an essential part of living, only this time purely based on schedules, availability and physical capabilities. In this modern age when we have begun to let go of our ownership over our objects from iphones to Architecture due to the growing lack of interest in maintaining our own possessions, we are introducing a system where maintenance and caring, along with the objects and spaces associated are shared, and what is being let go is no longer the physical things, but simply the stigmas behind it-In other words, the neutralization of domestic labor.

Ultimately, we are attempting to explore a system that encourages all facets of domestic labor, particularly the labor of emotion and caregiv-ing by splitting and redistributing domestic work back to all residents as a form of social interaction in the context of modern communal housing in Mexico City where new forms of ownerships allow not only the sharing of objects and spaces but also its maintenance.

Study on Communal Spaces in Mexico City:
In our study of the lineage of shared owner-ship vs. private spaces in Mexican Architec-ture from the 1700’s to today, we observed that very early on in Mexican Architectural history, shared and collective spaces were very common. For example in the Pacific Colony from 1885 in the Cartogra- phy, we see that four families share a service building with a kitchen and laundry. As we enter the 20’s, we start to see densified apartments that illustrate the idea of efficiency prevalent in Modernism and minimum housing to combat issues of rapid population growth after the Revolution. Railways and industrial revolution as well as stable econ- omy brought people in rural areas to the city center during the second rush of Population growth during the 40’s as well. As a result, we see massive structures with 40 SQM units and a lack of communal spaces.

In the 2000’s, however, we start to see a re-newed interest in collective and shared spaces at the same time that com- panies like Spotify and Wework is being first introduced to Mex-ico City. As part of our project, we are trying to explore the lack of ownership over some of our space and objects vs. the attachment we have with others through the design of shared and collective housing. If the average person uses 20% of their possessions 80% of the time, suddenly we can imagine that the 80% of their things could promote an archi-tecture that sponsors a sharing of the rarely used. This leads to a new way of thinking of the relationship between people, objects, ar-chitecture and maintenance, specifically for future generations and millennials who are owning less and less.

The Site:
Condominio Insurgentes is 17-story high rise located
in Colonia Roma in Mexico City. The building first opened in 1958, and it was one of the first condominium buildings in Mexico after the passing of the Property and Condominium Law in 1956.

The earthquake of 1985 seemed to have damaged the building’s structure, and all the tenants were evacuated. Without maintenance, the building quickly decayed. Soon, the abandoned building was illegaly occupied by people.

Since some of the original owners have died, and others simply found the procedures and maintenance of such place is a drag, the building’s life was suspended indef- initely. It stands starkly in contrast to the trendy and upscale neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa.

In 2012, Civil Protection evicted and close the building. 137 people were expelled, but they qui-etly returned. Now, the building is semi-occupied by informal settlers.

The current residents are taking over the abandoned building, creating a sense of ownership by maintaining their own space. The residents of Condominio Insurgentes today have developed a strong sense of community and pride as we can see from the residents’ enthusiastic narratives of their home in several Youtube videos and their Facebook group.