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(Image Courtesy of SCI-Arc)

Since 2014, the SCI-Arc México initiative has spurred an ongoing dialog between the Los Angeles-based school and Mexican architects, artists, and thinkers. This spring, students in SCI-Arc’s M.Arch 1 program traveled to Mexico City to take part in reviews, art exhibitions, and tours of the city, to visit architecture offices, measure the site for their studio project, and share work with local designers.

Upon returning to the studio, students were tasked with designing the building and campus for an Art Institute in a dense part of Mexico City. This final studio in their core architectural training challenged the students to develop a mid-rise tower as a school, with public spaces breaking up the conventional office building typology.

To achieve an open and free section, students studied traditional campus plans and flipped the horizontal studies vertically, rearranging circulation and structure to suit this new orientation. The initial exercise– characteristic of SCI-Arc’s nonconventional approach to architectural education— was a playful take on studying historic precedents and relating them back to a contemporary, urban condition.

In the photograph, students exhibit their massing studies in a carnivalesque performance in front of a live audience. These buildings came to life, as they paraded around SCI-Arc’s quarter mile-long facility in a long procession. Of course, the flat studies were further developed into plausible three-dimensional buildings that students presented at the end of the semester to a select group of professionals, some of whom traveled in the opposite direction—from Mexico City to LA—to provide their feedback.

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