School of Architecture

Mexico Summer Program

Studio Mexico is a summer traveling design studio and integrated seminar that examines new strategies of sustainable place making in the tropics. The program, an initiative of the Preservation Institute: Caribbean (PI:C) in the School of Architecture, has been offered in this format since 1996, summer 2016 being its 20th anniversary. The work of Studio Mexico is an on-going study investigating of the influence of landscape, climate, and culture on place making in Mexico and the Caribbean. The educational agenda is based on the premise that climate is as much a cultural as a functional component of our environment. Up until the raise of air conditioning technologies, responding to local environmental conditions was the first step in the practical evaluation of place-making potential. Beyond these practicalities, however, climate has much broader cultural implications. Through millennia of inhabitation in a particular region, sequential cultures have transformed natural settings into cultural landscapes using building strategies that bear the unequivocal imprint of climate as a cultural phenomenon.

Methodologically, each year’s studio searches for proof of these intuitions not in general theories but through place oriented case studies. Since we are interested in the confluence of landscape, culture and climate, the decision to leave the city for the territory of rural areas is strategic. In moving away from historic city centers, issues such as the gravitas of urban culture, the influence of building style, and urban traditions of occupation are substituted for those of agriculture, climate, and a less mediated environmental perception. The interrelationship of agricultural settlements to geography, and the immediacy of the decisions made in relation to land and water, offers the studio a set of basic place-making considerations that still are culturally determined. Shifting from urban culture to agri-culture arguably mitigates the influence of global culture, providing a critical immersion into local cultures that are thriving in the diverse spaces of tropical climate.