Ten years ago in Mexico City, Andrea Cesarman, Emilio Cabrero, and Marco Coello of local architecture firm C Cúbica Arquitectos were knocking on the doors of all the city’s major art museums. The trio had one question: why weren’t there any exhibits focused on design? This door-to-door determination helped to lay the foundation for Design Week Mexico.
That first year, the Museo Tamayo—one of the city’s most important contemporary art museums—gave them a tiny space tucked away in a back corner for a small exhibit focused on female Mexican designers. It was such a success that the following year, the Modern Art Museum (a.k.a. Museo de Art Moderno) granted them a much larger space to display Fábrica Mexicana, the first design exhibition to be held in a federal institution in decades. “After that, every year within the program of the Tamayo and the Modern Art Museum, is an exhibit about design or architecture that is curated by us,” Cesarman says. “So, we are very proud about that because we started a conversation about how design has to be included in the programs of these museums.”
Not only did Cesarman, Cabrero, and Coello create Design Week Mexico, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, they were also responsible for winning the bid to become World Design Capital—a designation given biennially by the World Design Organization to cities with progressive design initiatives. Their application was the first to be submitted by private entrepreneurs, not the government, and has established Mexico City as the first city in North America to be awarded with the honour.
“Good design makes a better life,” says Andrea Cesarman, co-founder of Design Week Mexico.
Upon winning the title, the trio opened Espacio CDMX as a headquarters for Design Week Mexico and an information centre for all events related to its World Design Capital programming. Located in the expansive Chapultepec Park, Espacio CDMX is housed within a former children’s train depot that had been abandoned and covered in graffiti before being refurbished by the team. Now, the space hosts a range of programs, including rotating exhibits, design workshops, and talks from visiting architects.
This October, people will come from far and wide to take part in Design Week Mexico and discover what all the buzz is about. Twenty main exhibitions and 100 events will be spread across the city, at institutions like the Tamayo Museum, the Modern Art Museum, and the National Museum of Anthropology, the latter of which is hosting a design exhibit for the first time ever. A collaborative project called Design House will bring together 24 architects and designers to create an immersive, site-specific installation within one house. Galleries and showrooms in hip neighborhoods like Roma and Condesa will launch new collections, inviting visitors to discover the work of local creatives.
“Today, we can say we have a design scene in Mexico and I think when we started, we couldn’t say that,” says Cesarman. “I feel very proud about that.” Born and raised in Mexico City, she recalls the decline the city went through in the 1980s, but believes it’s now going through a renaissance reminiscent of the golden age of the fifties and sixties. It was during this period that painter Diego Rivera created monumental public works, Luis Barragán (who won the Pritzker Prize in 1980) constructed striking modernist buildings, the city played host to the Summer Olympics, and there was a widespread appreciation of art and architecture.
In Cesarman’s view, what makes the current revival of Mexico City’s design scene so exciting is that the approach is no longer just about creating objects of desire. Instead, it’s centred around designing for a future in ways that are socially responsible and environmentally conscious. As Cesarman says, “Good design makes a better life.”
Design Week Mexico runs from October 10-14, 2018 at venues throughout Mexico City. Find the full program here.
Photos courtesy of Design Week Mexico.
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