Mexicali, Mexico

Mexicali, city in the border with California, knows an economic, demographic and urban outbreak similar to the neighbor and more famous Tijuana. Its requirements of new dwellings increase every year of 6' 000 units.
The realization of new complexes of social housing plays a fundamental role in the grouth of the city, but it is faced nearly exclusively from the quantitative profile. Spacial, constructive and urban qualities are often neglected.
This project represents the opportunity to face in a concrete context and through a specific approach such as the design of social housing, the topic of the fast expansion of the Latin-american cities.


House of the Migrant

1’350 m² of land
2’000 m² covered
18 units
72 guests

Daily the US Border Patrol returns to Mexicali between 60 and 100 illegal immigrants. The institutions that receive the migrants gratuitously or for tiny cost are not enough.
The center of Mexicali, in a degrading state, it is used by the population of smaller resources, mainly for the informal economy that generates the border passage. Many important buildings are in disuse, abandoned or on unfinished work state.
The elected site is the upside of a concrete structure, in part used as offices and shops, situated in an important corner of the city center.
The project for a migrant center propose an area of common spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, dinning rooms, working spaces situated in the existing terrace and an over-elevation of light modular structure for lodging the common or family dormitories.

Alberto Julio Fresco

La Maltera

0.77 hectares of land
3’744 m² covered
26 units
104 inhabitants
135 inhabitants by hectare

The second sector of the city is characterized by low density residential buildings. The “Maltera” is a 20 meters heigh concrete structure surrounded by empty lots that were owned by the old brewery.
The project of 26 unfamiliar houses with patio research on the possibility of making small operations of social housing in the residual spaces–but well served- at the interior of the urban structure.
The “Maltera” building is reserved for the public use that every neighborhood has to have according to law requirements. It is proposed its transformation as regional contemporary art museum, according to its character of monument.

Jorge Eliseo Muñiz Gutiérrez

Las Sombras

20.5 hectares of land
1’400 m² covered
900 lots with services of 120 to 140m²
3’600 inhabitants
176 inhabitants per hectare

The northwest zone of the city is characterized by the presence of private neighbourhoods, called “cerradas”, built for medium and high social level characterized by a perimetral wall and controlled access.
The project is looking for the delimitation of four “cerradas” using only L shaped prefabricated elements of concrete usually used for retaining walls, in order to build the walls and the side walk. At the center of the settlement is situated a big roof, also made of prefabricated materials as a covered plaza. The shadow constitutes the quality of the space.

Ana Eva Hernandez Ibarra

Las Palmas

10 hectares of land
72’000 m² covered
2’250 economic houses of 32m²
9’000 inhabitants
900 inhabitants per hectare

The site with a rectangular shape is limited at south by a services main road an urban equipments and at north by a sequence of green spaces that include the university gardens and an old palm plantation. The cost of the land in the area is relatively high because of the recent costruction of housing for medium and high social level.
The project proposes the construction of low cost dwelling, increasing density without diminishing the plot surface available. Each unit has 120 m² of inhabitable surface, 96 m² of land plus 24 m² on the first floor. It is possible to extend the inferior part of the house.
One sense east-west streets are proposed for the vehicular access. In the north-south direction are found the walk site, connecting the green areas with services. Both ends will be respectively harnessed by a park on the north side and a roof for small shops and market on the south of the site.

Jorge Picas de Carvalho

Las Raices

31 hectares of land
18’000 m² covered
512 economic houses of 36m²
2’050 inhabitants
66 inhabitants per hectare

The site is characterized by the proximity of the fluvial park and a golf camp, besides of being crossed by two high tension lines. The most part of the land is left free, as a natural park in order to continue the green areas already existing, reducing the urban character and moving away the houses from the electric towers zone.

Matteo Pozzi

Rio Nuevo

36 hectares of land
39’000 m² construction covered
700 economic houses of 36 m² to 52m²
3’600 inhabitants
100 inhabitants per hectare

The project is situated between the existing residential areas and the river side park. The project proposes the creation of a new transition zone between the built environment and the natural area. It is proposed the construction of a new urban front with dwellings of two levels with shops at the first level, in an unique important street. The transaction zone between the park and the city is constituted by the most part of the houses, built underground in order to take advantage of the lands thermal inertia and served by a south oriented patio. The perimetral walls usedus wind screens are the only elements over the level of the land, pointing the presence of the group of dwellings and giving privacy and protection.

Anita Bulloni
AAM- Switzerland

Puerta del Sol

27 hectares of land
115 m² covered
1'195 economic houses of 48m²
4'780 inhabitants
177 inhabitants per hectare

The division 200 x 200 meters blocks of of the ex- ejido Xochimilco- old agriculture center already included by the urban structure of Mexicali - has been the example of the territorial arrangement of the project, in order to balance the streets chaos and directions that extend deformed from the city center. The alined minimal dwellings are proposed as elements of a greater scale, grouping houses of two levels under a continued roof wich contains the infrastructures and are served only by pedestrian paths. The parking lots are situated by groups in each block in order to diminish the presences of journeyed streets.

Ulises Omar Zuniga García
UABC Mexico

Laguna de Xochimilco

15.8 hectares of land
44'000 m² covered
815 economic houses of 54m²
2'075 inhabitants
131 inhabitants per hectare

This project is trying to generate a new space organization. A module that evidences the relation between the full space and the empty one is repeated in different scales, from the patio to the city.
The rule allows generating open spaces with different qualities and dimensions: The private patio, the community, the parking lot, the plaza and the park.
The strategies for the weather control are the construction of earth-concrete walls (earth stabilized with cement), the introvert character and the controlled openings in an interior patio.

Rosinda Maria Terroso Casais
AAM- Portugal

Nuevo Centro

6.5 hectares of land
6544 m² covered
204 houses
816 inhabitants
126 inhabitants per hectare

A crossing of two important roads is the only element that orders this new residential area. The site will be the fourth corner of the crossing and this gives a privileged position to the project.
According to the rules for residential zones, it is necessary to reserve an urban area for the construction of public buildings (schools, sport centres, medical centres, etc.). By speculative reason there are granted for this aim the residual zones and the more difficult to plot. Thus the State has less interest on building the public areas, leaving these areas empty and in disuse.
The project proposes the definition of a great available space for public use, setting it in the crossing road. Its superface equals the public area of the adjacent neighbourhoods. In change, new housings are build in these plots.
It is proposed a “basic dwelling module” of 18m²; composed by a common room, kitchen and bathroom, with extension possibilities.

Luis Alfredo Ramírez Tapia

La Frontera

46.8 hectares of land
25’095 m² covered
1’465 basic houses of 17m²
5’860 inhabitants
125.2 inhabitants per hectare

The zone presents a regular structure as consequence of the previous agricultural use.
The idea of the project is to create a great park with urban scale, taking advantage of the central position of the land, in relation to this sector of Mexicali, which is being urbanized with numerous social housing programs for low resources population.
A 1500m x 150m park is situated perpendicularly to the border line, being the exception that characterize the zone.
The type of house for this project is called “pie de casa” (basic nucleus with a single room with extension possibilities in an individual plot). The project tries to surpass the fragmented character of these minimal houses, proposing a continue structure in every block.

Aarón Tadeo Onchi

Programme of activities


inscription of candidates


comunication of the selected participants

workshop in Mexicali

Faculty of Architecture of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC)
Secretaria de Infraestructura y Desarrollo Urbano del Estado (SIDUE)
Instituto Municipal de Investigación and Planeación Urbana de Mexicali (IMIP)

guided visits to:
10 project sites (SIDUE)
examples of social housing (SIDUE)
historic center of Mexicali (UABC)
industrial plant of Kenworth Mexicana (IMIP)
electric power generation plants and residuals water treatment of Energía Azteca (IMIP)
geothermal power station (CEF) and the Cerro Prieto vulcano (IMIP)

10 public conferences at the Casa de Cultura Municipal of Mexicali

participation at the State Social Housing Forum in Tijuana


free travel in Mexico

workshop in Mendrisio

design atelier
collective critics
projects discussion with guest critics
Peppo Brivio, Jacques Gubler and Nuno Travasso

4 lectures seminary at the Accademia di Mendrisio


preparation of exhibition


presentation of the projects to Bernal Rodriguez, ambassador of Mexico in Switzerland


exhibition opening at the Accademia di Mendrisio with the introduction of César Velandia (SIDUE)


Casa de Cultura Municipal

Arquitecture and Climate
María Corral Martínez

Historic Architecture in Mexicali
Ana Margarita González
Cuauhtemoc Robles

The Urban Development in Mexicali
Inocencio Cuellar López

Territorial Planification in Baja California
Carlos Reyes

State Urban Development Plan
Carlos López Rodríguez

The Construction of the Territory in the Mexicali Valley
Oscar Sánchez

Urban Forestation
Cosme Arreola

Housing Policies in Baja California
César Velandia

WISH 2003–Tucumán
Martino Pedrozzi
Otto Krausbeck

Otto Krausbeck
Graduated at the Academy of Architecture of Mendrisio, Switzerland in 2002, with a thesis project directed by Kenneth Frampton. Assistant of the thesis design studio of Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus in the same faculty. Grant from the National Research Swiss Found in 2003, for a research and exhibition project about the greek architect Panos Koulermos, in collaboration with the Archivio del Moderno of Mendrisio

10 Works and Projects from 1996 to 2004
Martino Pedrozzi

Martino Pedrozzi
Zurich, 1971. Lecturer at the Academy of architecture of Mendrisio, Switzerland. He graduated at the Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne in 1996. Since 1997 he has an architectural practice in Lugano. After his studies he has been assistant of professors Alberto Campo Baeza, Valerio Olgiati and Kenneth Frampton. In 1999 he worked two months in Rio de Janeiro with Oscar Niemeyer and met in Montevideo the engineer Eladio Dieste. In 1999 and in 2006 his work obtained a distinction at the third and the fourth editions of the International Award for New Alpine Architecture, organised by “Sexten Kultur”. Since 2003 he leads the Workshop on International Social Housing (WISH): the Summer School programme of the Mendrisio Academy. He gave public lectures about his work at the Mendrisio Academy; at the “Universidad National de Tucumán”, Argentina; at the “Universidad Autonoma de Baja California” in Mexicali, Mexico; at the Nanjing University, China; and at Wits University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mexican Contemporary Architecture
Miquel Adriá

Miquel Adriá
(Barcelona 1956), graduated at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de la Ciudad Catalana (Etsab), master in the same University with Professor Ignasi Sola- Morales (1983- 1984). At the moment is professor of design at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey and Director of the “Arquine” magazine.

Accademia di architettura
di Mendrisio
Palazzo Turconi

Geography of the architecture: borders and crossings
Jacques Gubler

Jacques Gubler
Graduated in Art History ath the University of Lausanne, he taught at the Ecole Polytechnique Fèdèrale in the same city and at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark and at the University of Philadelfia.
He wrote “postcards” for Casabella for many years, and concluded researches about the national and international aspects of swiss architecture, ABC magazine (1924- 28), Viollet- le Duc, Sartoris, Jeanneret- Le Corbusier and Hannebique, as well as about urban history of the cities of La Chaux- de Fonds, Newark (New Jersey) and Arcachon.

Architecture and climate
Dietrich Schwarz

Dietrich Schwarz
Graduated in Architecture at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule of Zürich (ETH), in 1992 opens his own architectural practice in Chur (from 1997 at Domat / Ems), his activities are focused mainly in solar architecture, restoration of historical buildings and project on urban scale. Schweizer Solarpreis in 1996 and 2001.
First prize for the Domat / Ems plaza project in 1997. In 2002 is visiting professor at the Fachhochschule of Munich (Germany).
Has participated in different research projects on sustainable architecture. dietrich.schwarz@arch.unisi.ch

Environment Management
Mauro Gandolla

Mauro Gandolla
Graduated from the Federal Polytechnic of Zurich in Mechanic Engineering. Works on residual treatments since 1972. His experience is based on different complementary fields: public administration, academic and research in swiss and foreigners institutes, plants management and conduction of his own profesional practice. Active in Switzerland and abroad, have a good knowledge of the Latin American social- environment situation.

The demographic transition model: the Mexican case
Ivano Fosanelli

Ivano Fosanelli
Graduated in Political Geography and Contemporary History at the Università degli Studi di Bologna in 1985, with a thesis on borders and smmugling. Since 1995, is researching the phenomena of the european migration to Latin America. He publicated the volume: verso l’Argentina. Emigrazione, insediamento, identità tra Otto e Novecento, Locarno, Ddò, 2000. Now teaches geography at the cantonal high school of Mendrisio and is partner researcher at the Istituto di Storia delle Alpi of the Università della Svizzera Italiana.

Guest Critics

Martino Pedrozzi
Architecture Office
10.9 and

Peppo Brivio

Jacques Gubler

Jacques Gubler
Graduated in Art History ath the University of Lausanne, he taught at the Ecole Polytechnique Fèdèrale in the same city and at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark and at the University of Philadelfia.
He wrote “postcards” for Casabella for many years, and concluded researches about the national and international aspects of swiss architecture, ABC magazine (1924- 28), Viollet- le Duc, Sartoris, Jeanneret- Le Corbusier and Hannebique, as well as about urban history of the cities of La Chaux- de Fonds, Newark (New Jersey) and Arcachon.

Nuno Travasso

Nuno Travasso
(Porto, 1980) is developing his thesis at the University of Porto (FAUP). First prize at the “European workshop” of the Architecture Festival of Parma in 2004. Collaborates at the Jose Fernando Gonçales architecture practice in Porto and responsible of Design III at the FAUP; participated in the WISH 2003, in Tucumán, Argentina.


Hall Canaveé
Accademia di architettura
di Mendrisio
october 2004



Facultad de Arquitectura de la Universidad Autónoma
de Baja California

Aaron Bernal Rodríguez


Secretaria de Infraestructura y Desarrollo Urbano del Estado

Sergio Eduardo Montes Montoya

director of housing and territorial reserves
Rodolfo Félix Saguchi


Instituto Municipal de Investigación
y Planeamiento Urbanade Mexicali

Inocencio Cuellar López


Cámara Nacional de la Vivienda

state management
Cesar Velandia


L’Universo, Corriere del Ticino

Progetti messicani
page 5

El Periódico de Suiza

Embajador de México en Ticino
november 2004

Corriere del Ticino

Messico e Accademia collaborano
page 17

Revista Piso

issue 7
spring 2005
pages 71-75
Guadalajara, México


Dirección de Cultura del Ayuntamiento de Mexicali


Special thanks

Leopoldo Reyes González

Ramiro Garcia Vidaurri

Ladislao Ricci