Archinect - Adventures in Squareland 2023-11-29T04:36:55-05:00 Digital Fabrication with Spiders and Carbon Fiber Alec Perkins 2016-02-03T09:16:00-05:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p>One of my favorite buildings in Stuttgart only exists for a few months. Surprisingly, it is the annual project of the digital fabrication studio at the University. I&rsquo;m not usually such a fan of digifab- in the US the emphasis seems to be on the <strong>digi </strong>part and the fab is only a question of cutting shapes out of wood or plastic and bolting them together. Germany is all about the <strong>fab</strong>.</p><p>Every year, the University of Stuttgart builds a small pavilion for the main campus in the middle of the city. This project is a collaboration between two of the colleges, the Institute for Computational Design and the Institute of Building Structures &amp; Structural Design. What happens is, a bunch of architecture students team up with engineering students, and the group picks either a natural phenomena or biological process which produces form. Then they attempt to replicate the process.</p><p>Germany lives on industrial manufacturing. To them, digital fabrication is not about making a signature entrance to a hotel...</p> Germany in the spotlight- but what about the architecture? Alec Perkins 2016-01-24T12:44:00-05:00 >2016-02-12T17:14:50-05:00 <p>Germany was recently ranked as #1 country in the world in <em>US News and World Repor</em>t, based on the strength of its economy, political power, affluence, and quality of life. Its Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is&nbsp;<em>Time</em>&nbsp;magazine's person of the year, and the nation has topped headlines for its decisive role in the leadership of the EU and its repsonse to Putin, waves of refugees and migrants, Brexit, and the Greek economic crisis.</p><p>It seems the only place I haven't seen Germany in the headlines is in architecture section. (Or maybe not, prove me wrong in the comments!) Why not? Spain, Italy, and Greece have nearly no architecutre jobs right now, and many of the architects of all experience levels from these countries have left their homes to come work in Germany, which is actually witnessing one of the largest influxes of <em>professional</em> migrants in its history.</p><p>I've been living in Stuttgart, Germany and working as an architect here for just about two years now. I would like to resurrect this blog ...</p> Things to do while looking for work Alec Perkins 2014-02-19T01:01:11-05:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p>The last I posted to this blog, about five months ago, I was living in Mexico City and wrapping up my experiences working at Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao's office. I was beginning to look for work in Europe, in order to gain a wider experience and to be closer to my girlfriend.</p><p>This morning, reading emails in my mom's kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona, I received a contract for full-time employment from an architecture firm in Stuttgart, Germany, with a start date of April 1st. I'm still a bit in shock and disbelief that I actually have a contract.</p><p>Five months is a long time to have no income. Idiotically long. I tend to be overly optimistic, but if I was going to do it over again and realized that it was going to take five months to get a job, I'd have done something, anything to defray the steady student loan repayments.</p><p>I would have even worked retail.</p><p>So what did I do with my time?</p><ul><li>I tried to find part-time architecture work in Phoenix and posted signs all over the architecture school ...</li></ul> combination platter Alec Perkins 2013-10-07T11:59:00-04:00 >2013-10-14T17:10:47-04:00 <p> Pop quiz hotshot- where can you find works by Legorreta, TEN arquitectos, and Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon in the same place?</p> <p> CENART, Mexico's National Center for the Arts, is a large campus of many of the national art schools- the National school of Theater, National School of Contemporary and Classical Dance, the Superior School of Music, the National School of Cinematography, and one of the national graphic and sculptural art schools. The campus also includes, obviously, several large auditorium, museums, cafes, a bookstore, and the largest art supply store I've seen in the city. Separated from the main campus by a park, is a movie theater and a large parking garage.</p> <p> The campus was built in the end of the 1990s by the leading Mexican architects of the time. Walking through is like ordering a Mexican combination plate- it's not the best works of each, but part of the fun is having them all side by side together and being able to identify them.</p> <p> If it's brightly colored with rep...</p> professional reference letter Alec Perkins 2013-09-27T14:12:00-04:00 >2016-03-09T10:26:07-05:00 <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><em>In the professional world, harried supervisors and busy firm principals will often ask departing interns or staff to draft their own letters of recommendation. While it may seem a daunting task to balance highlighting one's skills, interests, and experience with an even and professional tone, I have discovered a great handbook which included this basic template.</em></p> <p> To Whom It May Concern:</p> <p> I am an architect, [ TITLE OF SUPERVISOR ], and recent head of [ NAME OF OFFICE ], one of the most prolific and highly awarded firms in the region. We are well known for our progressive design philosophy and commitment to sustainability.</p> <p> Ms.[YOUR NAME] came to our [LOCATION] office as an intern six months ago. Her resume indicated that she had some prior professional experience in architecture. She neglected to include her experience as an artist and poet.</p> <p> Ms. [YOUR NAME] was initially placed as an assistant coffeeman for a toilet partition design team, but she was brought to my attention by...</p> Hanging up the Sombrero Alec Perkins 2013-09-24T01:54:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> This is my last week as an intern at Tatiana Bilbao's office in Mexico City. In about two weeks, I'll be on a plane heading north. I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving the office. On the downside, like many high-desirability offices, there is the expectation to work longer hours for a lower-end payscale. Actually, my average work week was under 50 hours, and I was only asked to work about one weekend in five. Really, not bad compared to my friends working in similar offices in New York and L.A.</p> <p> Interns in Mexico are basically understood to be living with family, so the pay is generally low anyway. I was given more since as a foreigner, it was understood that I was going to be paying for my own food and housing. For the amount I was given every month, you have to give up Starbucks and craft beers- each latte and IPA is the price of a meal. I almost never take cabs, and I rarely went to bars or nicer restaurants. American restaurants are more expensive here, so you have...</p> mobile military greenhouses and renovated panopticons Alec Perkins 2013-09-22T20:05:00-04:00 >2013-10-10T10:53:45-04:00 <p> Monday was a national holiday to celebrate Independence, so instead of going into work, I donned my giant fiesta sombrero and trucked out to Reforma for the big military parade.</p> <p> I joined huge crowds along the parade route, and grabbed a spot on top of the ecobici (shared public bikes) rack so I could sit and then stand (precariously) when the parade started. Almost everyone there had a green baseball cap that was being handed out by young volunteers, so it was a sea of green hats and <em>campesino</em> sombreros.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> In addition to the tens of thousands of Mexican Army troops marched by, I was particularly interested in the support vehicles. There were a few tractors-trailers pulling cooking trailers, and of course, the mobile <em>tortilladora</em> operation which had its own trailer.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The other surprise from the parade was the Environmental Protection Brigade. These soldiers were armed with planting tools and hard hats, and they drove by with two open trailers with three stacked trays of sa...</p> fun things to do with concrete Alec Perkins 2013-09-14T16:52:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> Felix Candela was a Spanish architect-engineer who fled to Mexico after fighting Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Like his Italian contemporary, Pier Nervi, Candela made structure architecture. Louis Kahn asked a brick what it <em>wanted </em>to be- Candela asked concrete what it <em>could </em>be.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> In 1958, on top of a hill south of Cuernavaca overlooking the town, Candela worked with two other Mexican architects to create a simple open air chapel in thin shell concrete. If you're not familiar with it from "History of Architecture" or "Basics of Structures," Princeton has a nice <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">website </a>on it. The chapel is an elongated hyperbolic paraboloid- the most elegant, largest pringle ever made.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The only problem is you can't really see it anymore. At the time of its construction, it was the only thing out there, and you could take in the sweep and graceful curves in a single glance. Today, with the explosive growth of Cuernavaca, there are houses and other buildings around the back and sides, and ...</p> Architecture treasure map Alec Perkins 2013-09-11T12:29:00-04:00 >2013-09-16T22:19:59-04:00 <p> After one of Archinect's senior editors kindly put my "one day tour of mexico city architecture" into <a href=";gl=us&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;oe=UTF8&amp;msa=0&amp;msid=210584151556572973721.0004e57119d00d15f4bab" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">a map form</a>, it dawned on me that maybe I should make a map of all of the interesting contemporary and modern architecture I've seen here in Mexico City. Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map....</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> I've organized the map into three layers-</p> <ul><li> contemporary architecture from the last ten years</li> <li> classic modernism which catches everything from early Juan O'Gorman in the 1940s to Legorreta at the beginning of the 1970s</li> <li> places I like to eat, because Mexican food.</li> </ul><p> Apart from Barragan, I have not included any residential architecture since houses here are typically behind high walls topped with electrified razor wire. I have also included the nearby cities of Puebla and Cuernavaca because you can easily reach both of the cities via busses from Mexico City which leave every 15 minutes and take 1-2 hours to travel.</p> <p> There is a bit of irony that I'm <em>not </em>including of Tatiana Bilbao's ...</p> past, present, future Alec Perkins 2013-09-02T12:24:00-04:00 >2013-09-09T22:08:32-04:00 <p> After writing about one day of modernism in Mexico City, I decided to take this weekend to catch up on the places I'd recommended sight unseen (at least, in person). Here are three projects, one unexpected, which all made reference to time- temporary cities on ancient, new buildings enveloping old, and an attempt to capture the future.</p> <p> The centro historico was busier than usual, more people, more activity than a typical weekend. The striking teachers union was encamped, filling the Zocalo, and occupying several major streets, many of them from Oaxca. They turned the sidewalks and streets into obstacle courses with a web of cables and string holding up tarps and political banners. The massive void at the center of the city, the Zocalo, is full of a tent city holding hundreds. The temporary architecture of occupation, surrounded by centuries old palaces which have seen a blinding succession of occupations come and go.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The Centro Cultural de Espana is an interesting building w...</p> one day tour of the bleeding glass-and-concrete edge of Mexico City Modernism Alec Perkins 2013-08-27T13:50:00-04:00 >2023-09-06T10:46:09-04:00 <p> A reader requested a one day itinerary to visit the highlights of "innovative contemporary architecture" in Mexico City, and it made me think about what I've seen here (and about what I've missed).</p> <p> I'm probably omitting buildings, either because I don't know them, or because I'm trying to condense sightseeing to a single day. I'm also deeply in debt to my friend Salvador Pati&ntilde;o for his amazing map of things to see and do in Mexico City, without which, I would not have discovered many of these.</p> <p> I've organized the tour in a rough arc which sweeps up from Tlalpan/Coyoacan in the south to Polanco in the East, to Buenavista, and finally arcing back to end in the Centro Historico.</p> <p> Most places don't open until 10am in Mexico, so take the time to eat a good breakfast or a leisurely coffee. If you're in a mid-century modern kind of mood, there's an unpretentious and quite good cafe on Reforma near the Angel called <a href=",+06600+Mexico+City&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=19.427218,-99.167426&amp;spn=0.008884,0.013797&amp;client=ubuntu&amp;channel=fs&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;hnear=Varsovia+3,+Ju%C3%A1rez,+Cuauht%C3%A9moc,+Ciudad+de+M%C3%A9xico,+Distrito+Federal&amp;gl=mx&amp;t=m&amp;z=16&amp;iwloc=A" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Yug</a> which serves up vegetarian Mexican breakfasts in the ground floor ...</p> a new memorial to the victims of [drug war] violence Alec Perkins 2013-08-06T19:10:00-04:00 >2013-08-18T10:31:10-04:00 <p> In early 2013, Gaeta-Springall Arquitectos completed a Memorial to Victims of Violence in Mexico. Many people understood the memorial as particularly memorializing the victims of the drug war in Mexico, of which somewhere around 60,000 people have been killed since 2006. As such, it remains controversial, interpreted as a mute and subtle criticism of the federal government's war on drugs.</p> <p> The memorial is located at the far end of Chapultapec park, in a quiet corner, where unless you know where to look for it, you are unlikely to stumble across it. The site formerly belonged to the Mexican department of defense, which still holds the adjacent property, a massive field with spectator stands used primarily as a polo field. Unpleasantly, depending where you are in the memorial, the smell of horses wafts over the fence, and on game days, the amplified announcer breaks the site's solemnity and peace.</p> <p> The memorial consists of a series of 70 massive rusted cor-ten steel slabs, arrange...</p> Santa Fé, Mexico City- a glittering dump of beautiful buildings Alec Perkins 2013-08-06T11:35:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> Thirty years ago, the area known as Santa F&eacute; was a massive landfill at the edge of Mexico City. When the dump reached capacity (around the same time NAFTA was creating wealth and attracing international businesses), the powers that be decided to transform the dump into the glittering new central business district. For the past 20 years Santa F&eacute; has been growing upwards, described to me as an "American-style" suburb, lacking street life, pedestrians, public transit, or any kind of non-luxury housing.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Mexican author Rub&eacute;n Gallo, in the introduction to the <em>Mexico City Reader</em>, writes: "Driving through Santa Fe- one can get there only by car -is an eerie experience: the streets are deserted, and nothing at all distinguishes this suburb from its counterparts in Atlanta, Caracas, or San Jos&eacute;. Santa F&eacute; has no history and no identity, it is a typical generic city."</p> <p> It sounded so soulless and awful I had to check it out. It turned out to be not as bad as I'd heard. There were in fact...</p> cultures of public space Alec Perkins 2013-08-02T19:32:00-04:00 >2013-08-18T10:31:10-04:00 <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> In most cities and towns in Mexico, there is a z&oacute;calo or central plaza. It's an open space, usually loosely programmed, traditionally used for markets, celebrations, protests, ceremonies, relaxing, and socializing. The z&oacute;calo is also usually surrounded by some of the most important buildings in the social functioning of the town, notably the main church, and the seat of local governance.</p> <p> Historically, it was derived from the Spanish hierarchical urban grid- the status of the building and the inhabitants increased with proximity to the open square at the center. The hierarchical form of the grid made a center. It's an interesting contrast to the Jeffersonian grid used in the planning of many US cities, which was much more egalitarian- since all the squares were equal in importance, it severely decreased the strength of any space as 'center'.</p> <p> In the hillside town of Cuetzalan, the z&oacute;calo is broken into a series of terraces and steps:</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> 1 is the main church of the town</p> <p> 2 ...</p> modern palace renovations, flying houses, and wooden waves in Puebla Alec Perkins 2013-07-22T16:50:00-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> Puebla is a city to the southwest of Mexico City, about a two hour bus ride. A very old city, it was founded by Catholic orders to counter nearby Cholula, a historic center of Aztec and indigenous faith. Puebla remained a bastion of tradition and conservativism for nearly its entire history, a polar counterpart to the waves of liberalism and anti-religiousness which has occationally swept the nearby capital. As such, the historic center remains very much intact, and a highly unlikely place to find new modern architecture.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Puebla looks like I imaged Mexico City would be before I arrived. The historic center <em>looks </em>like a historic center, a rigorously gridded city of uniformly old buildings, all painted brilliant pastel colors. Much more picturesque than most places in Mexico City.</p> <p> Our main goal was the Museo Amparo, which my guidebook claimed to be the highlight of Puebla. The private museum has a phenomenal and extensive collection of pre-hispanic artefacts, and occupies two...</p> New Cultural Architecture in Polanco Alec Perkins 2013-07-15T18:35:00-04:00 >2013-07-22T19:41:10-04:00 <p> For a bit of context, Polanco is a very ritzy neighborhood in western Mexico City, filled with offices, luxury housing, and some of the most expensive boutiques, clubs, and restaurants in the city. The main thoroughfare of the neighborhood is the city's Rodeo Drive with its line of Hugo Boss stores, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Porche dealerships, Tiffany's, etc. etc.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> In the northern end of Polanco, there has been a new business and musuem district in the works over the past few years.</p> <p> The most notable works of new architecture are the Cervantes Theater (nearing completion) by Ensamble Studio, the new building to house the Jumex art collection (nearing completion) by David Chipperfield Architects, and the completed Museo Soumaya.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The Museo Soumaya a very interesting museum especially in the context of who designed it, who funded it, and whose art is inside of it.</p> <p> You may have heard of Carlos Slim, who owns an effective monopoly over the wireless networks in Mexico. I&rsquo;m p...</p> Casa vs House- differences in US and MEX domestic architecture Alec Perkins 2013-07-15T14:03:44-04:00 >2022-10-25T09:05:05-04:00 <p> I have a tricky assignment at work. For reasons I won&rsquo;t go into here, my task is to adapt&nbsp; a house design to be appropriate and affordable for a middle class family in either Mexico or the United States. The floorplan of the house is more or less established. There are four critical differences that I&rsquo;m coming up against.</p> <p> <strong>Material</strong><br> In the united states, I would say this kind of house I&rsquo;m designing would be a fairly conventional wood frame construction. It&rsquo;s a house for a middle class family, nothing too elaborate in the finishes or construction, so no steel or cast concrete since you&rsquo;re talking a lot more money, not so much for the material as much as the cost of labor. In the US, it makes a lot more sense to prefab a building out of expensive components and quickly and easily field assemble because time in the field is really expensive.</p> <p> In Mexico, wood is a really expensive material. People just don&rsquo;t build detached houses let alone for the middle class out of wood. They use ...</p> the secret modernist metro in Mexico City Alec Perkins 2013-07-10T12:20:00-04:00 >2013-07-17T13:44:32-04:00 <p> If you have read my other posts on the metro system in Mexico City, I have decried the stations and trains as packed, claustrophioc, inhumane, vascular spaces like a human meat packing plant. Many of the stations are so old the stone floors have noticably&nbsp; worn down.</p> <p> And then, one day, crossing the city by metro, I stumbled across line 12.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Instead of the traffic-cone-orange and gray textured concrete walls and claustrophic and dingy platforms, I was suddenly in vast spaces filled with daylight, pure clean modernist forms with cleanly fabricated exposed concrete, white metal walls, sleek illuminated signage, and a kind of spatial clarity absent from the maze of intersecting tunnels in other stations.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The train that arrived looked and felt like it had just left Switzerland. Sleek, clean, modern, and well-lit. I felt completely thrown for a loop. While no one had ever denied the existance of line 12, I felt like a massive work of modernist design had been concealed. It...</p> public space as commercial space Alec Perkins 2013-07-09T23:54:18-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> Commerce is seen everywhere in public spaces in Mexico City, at every scale of space and legitimacy. The spaces required for the transactions of life vary wildly:</p> <ul><li> The gum seller on the packed metro moves from car to car, litterally squeezing the entire business operation into a space meastured in air molecules between bodies.</li> <li> Guerilla graffiti marketing campagins for various game consoles and performers proliferate on walls and metro entrances across the city, especially in the more affluent districts.</li> </ul><p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <ul><li> The fresh fruit juice makers unfold their stands on street corners and encoach on crosswalks from mobile push carts in the early morning, and disappear by lunchtime to be replaced by different push carts which have unfolded into tiny taco and tortas bars.</li> </ul><p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <ul><li> Vendors selling everything from pirated CDs and DVDs to artesnal crafts claim a few square meters of public sidewalk to display their wares open to the elements.</li> <li> Temporary stalls made from a quickly errected ...</li></ul> UNAM - 50 years of modern architecture at the National University Alec Perkins 2013-07-04T13:39:00-04:00 >2013-07-15T21:39:18-04:00 <p> UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, is the second oldest University in all of the Americas. Up until about seventy years ago, the University occupied a series of palaces and buildings in the historic center of the city. However, the powers that be decided that they would rather not have a bunch of university students running around the ancient palaces. The removal of a major center of young liberals from the historic center of protests and political power was also probably a huge factor as well.</p> <p> At any rate, the kids had to go, so a new, massive sprawling campus was designed from scratch out on the lava fields the the south of the city. It was designed and built in the 1950s by the cutting edge Mexican modernists of the time. In fact, it was recently declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its extensive Modern architecture.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""><img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Pilotis and murals abound. There is a massive central quad to end all quads, which steps up and down all through the center of the cam...</p> the view of Mexico City from a minibus Alec Perkins 2013-07-03T16:34:00-04:00 >2013-07-15T21:49:20-04:00 <p> Combis are the tiny microbusses that ply the fine grain routes of the city.&nbsp; There are probably hundreds of routes throughout the city. They're a very cheap way to get around once you get comfortable with them.</p> <p> At first, I thought the thing I hated worst about the commute was the combi ride. But really, it was just because I was worried about paying and getting the driver to stop in the right spot and not being totally comfortable with the language. There is something kind of scary about getting in a small vehicle at the giant metro terminal, which has about a hundred other combi routes, trusting that you got into the right combi and that your driver isn&rsquo;t going to get into an accident and kill you or rip you off or mug you. But actually, I came to realize that I actually kind of enjoyed taking the combi home every day.</p> <p> The metro system experience sucks. You&rsquo;re mashed into a system of tunnels and cars and platforms, jostling for space, claustrophic in the depths below Mexico C...</p> San Ángel and the Ex-Convent of the Carmelites Alec Perkins 2013-07-02T11:52:00-04:00 >2013-07-08T22:45:02-04:00 <p> San &Aacute;ngel was a wealthy village to the southwest which also became engulfed by the sprawl of Mexico City. It is still very wealthy, a very popular tourist destination thanks to its lovely coblestones streets, huge, beautiful houses, and its weekend market.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Thankfully, it's accessible by metrobus.</p> <p> I took the MetroBus down avenida insurgentes from Revolucion. Insurgetes is an interesting street, a major throughfare, with nice restaurants, office buildings, and a mix of everything. It's also one of the longest streets in the Americas. It took a long time to ride down, but it was interesting to ride on the street level and see a long section of the city. And because it was mid-morning on a weekend, it wasn&rsquo;t too packed.</p> <p> I jumped off at Bomberos, and from there it was a short walk west to the main square of San Angel, along streets lined with cobblestones. There are a series of a small squares, public spaces, and all the vendors were setting up for the day. Much more of a arti...</p> speculation on the differences between Mexican and American cities Alec Perkins 2013-07-01T13:26:12-04:00 >2013-07-08T22:43:48-04:00 <p> Emily Badger, writing for <a href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><em>Atlantic Cities</em></a> wrote&nbsp; "At their most fundamental, cities are not really agglomerations of people; they&rsquo;re agglomerations of connections between people." Mexico City is highly striking to me because these connections seem to be much more publicly&nbsp; visible here than in the US, but also because these connections provide a safety net for weak and unstable political, economic, and judicial systems.</p> <p> One of the numerous poor people selling pirated MP3 CDs on the metro, this grungy young guy, backpack stereo blasting the corridas of northern Mexico, gets the attention of a seated old woman. No words are exchanged. He hands her one of the CDs and she gives him a ten peso coin. He puts the coin back in her withered hands and continues on. I don&rsquo;t know if he did it from charity or to gain sympathy for the charitable act to sell more CDs, but I was touched, as I often am, by the high levels of charity and compassion I see here in Mexico City.</p> <p> I am tempted to the...</p> The Hanging Library of Mexico City Alec Perkins 2013-06-27T17:45:00-04:00 >2013-07-04T11:29:42-04:00 <p> The national library of Mexico is called Biblioteca Vasconcelos, but it's somewhat confusing since there actually several separate complexes in different parts of the city with the same name and part of the same system. The Vasconcelos library I set out for was the newest one, completed in 2006 by the Mexican Architect Alberto Kalach.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The exterior is not that exciting- it&rsquo;s a massive slab of building, with battered sides lined with horizontal fins to block the hard sunlight. In that sense, it is quite militaristic, a vast slatted bunker. The local press apparently called it the "megalibrary". But, oh, the inside.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> I walked in and immediately got butterflies in my stomach. The space made giddy with excitement. There are few buildings which I&rsquo;ve seen that fill me with such wonder and I had to restrain myself from grabbing a passer-by and asking &ldquo;isn&rsquo;t this amazing!?!" I ditched my bag at one of the numerous bag checks, and headed up into the stacks.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The massive shell o...</p> Dirty Cities Alec Perkins 2013-06-27T10:38:43-04:00 >2013-07-01T21:13:04-04:00 <p> When I came here, I tried to be optimistic and open minded, but Mexico City reminded me a lot of pre-olympics Beijing. I thought it was a dirty, gritty, city. You glance around where you&rsquo;re walking along the streets and it's easy to say, yeah, Mexico City is pretty dirty.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> However, like most things in Mexico City, the truth seems to be more complicated once you start to really stop and look. It's just like the usage of &ldquo;sketchy" in reference to neighborhoods- what is it, really, that you&rsquo;re pointing to? So what is it about the city that makes me think it's dirty? Is it really?</p> <p> Actually, the Capitalanos take great care in cleaning the city. Everywhere I go, people are sweeping sidewalks, washing things, picking up trash. There is such a vast population of low income workers and labor is so cheap that it is possible to have an army of garbage collectors, sweepers, recycling sorters, subway moppers etc.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The walls and floors of the metro stations here are usually spotless a...</p> Observations from the Observation deck Alec Perkins 2013-06-27T10:11:44-04:00 >2013-07-01T21:13:58-04:00 <p> I took the metro to the centro and walked along Eje central towards the historic center. The entire Eje is lined on both sides with all kinds of cheap stores, including a staggering number of electronics vendors. The are several massive warrens of nothing but narrow stalls selling cell phones, tablets, computers, game systems, and associated paraphernalia. And lots and lots of pirated software.</p> <p> My goal, however, was skyward. I paid the $6 to go up to the observatory on the top of the Torre Latinoamericano, skyscraper of 43 floors, like a miniature Empire state building.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The tower stands at the edge of the giant historic center, with great views of the center- including a view down into the Zocolo. You can see the airport in the distance. Around to the south, the mountains fade into the haze, growing larger even as they become less clear in the smog. To the west, you can see the towers and the commercial centers along Paseo de la Reforma. It&rsquo;s a big city, but it doesn&rsquo;t look...</p> Coyoacán: gardens, plazas, and Diego Rivera plays architect Alec Perkins 2013-06-20T14:19:09-04:00 >2018-01-30T06:16:04-05:00 <p> I got up early this morning and quietly slipped out to head down to Coyoacan, recommended by one my friends as one of his favorite neighborhoods. The metro drops you off a good ways off from Coyoacan, on the opposite side of a huge park, the Viveros de Coyoacan. You can&rsquo;t actually access it from the metro side. You have to walk about a half mile along the perimeter fence to get to one of the three entrances. It was really irritating to me at first having to walk all the way around along a miserable divided thoroughfare, but I understood once I got inside.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> A <em>viveros </em>is a tree nursery as well as a public park. This is where the trees are grown and nurtured for the city&rsquo;s use in landscaping and parks around the metropolitan region. You want people to respect that and the plants and to preserve it as a destination rather than a access corridor. People have to want to go here. And they do. It was an amazingly beautiful morning, and the park was filled with runners and walkers o...</p> Chapultapec Park Alec Perkins 2013-06-19T11:22:51-04:00 >2021-12-14T16:16:07-05:00 <p> Chapultapec is the sprawling city park at the end of Paseo de la Reforma. It&rsquo;s at least a mile long and contains some major institutions such as the National Auditorium, the presidential houses, and the massive museum of Anthropology as well as the Mexico City Zoo and some lakes. There&rsquo;s also some smaller museums, national memorials, and in the middle is a giant castle on a hill.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> It&rsquo;s a lovely place to walk. The scale of the places means that there are parts where you can stroll by yourself in the trees, and also major pedestrian paths filled with vendors and carts. This is a major weekend spot for families apparently, lots of kids and facepainting and cotton candy and toys. It&rsquo;s incredibly active as you might imagine, although the space means that if you ever feel overwhelmed, you can step off into a side path and get some breathing space.</p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> The museum of anthropology is worth visiting just for the architecture. It was built in the 1960s by a prominent Mexican architect w...</p> end of the line: cuatros caminos metro terminal Alec Perkins 2013-06-18T13:23:58-04:00 >2013-06-24T20:40:22-04:00 <p> <em>Note: Combis, or more accurately, Kombis, refer to small panel microbuses originally made by </em>Volkswagen<em> but have come to refer to a wide variety of makers microbuses. I've traveled in combis in Peru and China, and they seem to satisfy a major trasnportation niche in nearly every developing nation.</em></p> <p> <img alt="" src="" title=""></p> <p> Today I hopped a combi and headed into town. As it was early saturday afternoon, there were roadside markets everywhere that had instantaneously set up in the side drive lanes. Our combi driver also let us off at a different part of Quatro Caminos station.</p> <p> Quatro Caminos, if I haven&rsquo;t mentioned it before, is much more than a mere metro station. It&rsquo;s a major transit hub where all the busses and combis from the suburbs and cities beyond the western city limits come in to drop off and pick up passengers. There&rsquo;s about a dozen bus platforms and each platform has at least two or three route pick ups.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s also a serious clusterf*** of traffic engineering. There&rsquo;s two ways in and out ...</p> the hard life of a mexico city combi driver Alec Perkins 2013-06-18T12:47:23-04:00 >2020-02-11T14:01:10-05:00 <p> They have churros here! You can buy them regular or stuffed with vanilla or fruit jams. They&rsquo;re best served with hot chocolate or coffee, or dipped into cajeta, which is basically a kind of soft milk caramel traditionally made with goat&rsquo;s milk. Churros are traditionally a late night snack, although I bought mine for breakfast from a guy with a cart outside the metro near my office.</p> <p> I&rsquo;ve been warned against street food, but come on, it's fried dough and sugar. Nothing is going to survive the deep-fat frying. Plus, its churros. Who among you can resist hot churros?</p> <p> Saying goodbye to my coworker on the train, he said &ldquo;hasta luego, gringo.&rdquo; and I replied &ldquo;hasta luego, chilango&rdquo; and he laughed and shook his head. (Chilangos are Mexico City dwellers- people from the city who live there). &ldquo;If I was a Chilango, I&rsquo;d have to kill myself. Actually, they would kill me first.&rdquo;</p> <p> There&rsquo;s a Chilango accent apparently, and a certain way of stressing vowels in words. It seems as thought theres...</p>