Recycled concrete formwork for an artist's studio

Like every morning thousands of cars are stuck in traffic jams and create the typical picture of the 21 million metropolis Mexico City. Fortunately, this morning we drive with the Swiss architect Jachen Schleich in the opposite, almost traffic jam-free direction out of Mexico City. After a forty-minute drive we find ourselves in the middle of the forest at about 3000 m.a.s.l. The crowing of the cock from the neighbouring farm accompanies us on the way up to Studio Roel, which was completed in summer 2017 by the architectural office Dellekamp Schleich.

Three years ago the artist Guillermo Roel turned to his friend, the architect Derek Dellekamp. With an extremely minimal budget of the equivalent of 50,000 Swiss francs, he wanted to realize his dream of his own artist's studio. Due to the artist's large-format works, the studio was to have a large span and a generous room height. Despite difficult conditions, the project soon became a success. Large spans were not a novelty for the architects; they had recently developed a concrete coffered ceiling for the luxurious "CH70" residential building project in Mexico City. The efficient and cost-effective solution was to recycle the same formwork during the construction of Studio Roel. However, the concrete quality is not as high as in the luxury residential project, and the architects were aware of the risk of the "aesthetically unattractive" exposed concrete in an architectural sense. "The best way to control this is to give up control," Derek Dellekamp explained in the interview. The built result does not only look appropriately "rough" for an artist's studio, it also patinizes the room, it looks as if it already has a history.

Even if the minimal budget was ultimately not enough, artist and client Guillermo Roel is very satisfied with his studio space. He praises the synthesis of necessity and aesthetics. Daylight, the artist's most valuable instrument, fills the five-meter-high room. Large sliding windows allow the inside and outside to merge. Standing on narrow pilotis and between the trees, the steep topography of the terrain flows under the studio. A grid of columns, matched to the geometry of the ceiling, forms the skeleton of the house and extends to the earth. The load-bearing concrete skeleton can be read from the outside, accentuated by the black painting of the non-load-bearing concrete blocks. Due to the cold climate at this altitude, the interior walls had to be insulated. An unusual procedure for this region.

The fact that the load-bearing structure is not visible from the inside is also atypical of the structurally accentuated buildings of the architectural office Dellekamp + Schleich, explains Jachen Schleich. But here large plastered surfaces were created in the interior that the artist needs for his work. The geometry of the reused modules of the concrete cassette ceiling, the statics and the budget ultimately determine the size of the studio. The flexible large room with the decorative ceiling becomes a studio, a gallery or an event location in the middle of the forest in front of the Mexican city.

Guillermo Roel, the multimedia artist who works in the fields of painting, video and photography, attracted a lot of attention with a spatial installation in the middle of Mexico City.


Published on werk, bauen + wohnen

© LEARNING FROM MEXICO 2019 by Laure Nashed

 Die Beiträge von «learningfrommexico» entstehen in Zusammenarbeit mit der Schweizer Architekturzeitschrift werk, bauen + wohnen.