One of the main characteristics of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos seems to be the idea of thinking of architectural design as a way to generate new urban qualities, a factor of activation of processes of renewal on an environmental and a social level, for the creation of a better city through a procedure that has been called ‘urban microsurgery.’

A new and flexible design mode that with specific and partial interventions impacts the reality of the urban fabric, in a process spread over time. The three projects shown on these pages, of different scales and types, share the fact that they are gathering places, collective spaces for the city and different types of users. ‘Diversity’ is one of the guiding factors in the design research of Studio SMA, aware of the complexity of contemporary urban reality, and of the impossibility of finding always valid formulae, pre-set architectural truths.

The Nobu restaurant (2014) in the Polanco district approach the theme of intervention in the constructed context at the level of interior design. In this case the architecture is in the colonial revival style (1953), in a building known as Casa Calderon.

The project – without avoiding its contemporary identity – creates a strong relationship with the three spans of the original space, richly decorated with moldings and pilaster strips in stone, in keeping with the Hispanic Baroque-Colonial spirit.

This central architectural backdrop functions as the ordering element, dividing the spaces of the venue, with the first dining room featuring a large mangrove that climbs onto the ceiling with its geometric design, combining the regular modules of the architectural motif with the irregular, unpredictable forms of nature. On the opposite side, the sushi bar is marked by a large suspended volume-lamp that frames the workspace of the chefs, creatively reinterpreting the lesson of the paper lamps of Isamu Noguchi.

The same suspended lighting solution is applied in the new three-story space of the second dining room. This area, with walls covered in dark stones from which horizontal cuts emerge to capture the light of always lit candles, reaches up to the natural light captured by a long skylight, from which to observe the vegetation in the outdoor garden.

The same attention to detail and pursuit of emotional quality in space can be seen in the project for the church of Josemaria Escrivá and the Community Center (2009) in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City. Here, in the context of a wider process of renewal, the church designed around the relationship of architecture and light becomes a new urban place, combined with a new plaza and outdoor furnishings.

The building rests on a complex stone base, between the plaza and terraces, offering a slim sculptural figure composed of two sinuous paired veils. Clad on the outside with zinc panels, they create an iridescent architectural skin with overlapping scales, reflecting the daylight.

Between the two veils a narrow empty space, glazed on the facades and the roof, creates an evocative continuous crack of light that enters the church along its surfaces, while inclined walls with a sculptural shape, covered with wooden planks, form the high aisle of the internal space.

Finally, the shopping center that is part of the Parque Toreo project at Naucalpan, in the Metropolitan zone of Mexico City, functions as the first segment of a phenomenon of urban transformation on a vast scale.

The formation of the new park is taken as one of the tools of regeneration of this part of the territory, and the shopping center, besides its customary role, acts as a gathering place for leisure time activities, also with a hotel and three office towers. The large-scale building has an outer facade paced by a rhomboid pattern whose connecting lines light up in the evening, making the entire volume vibrant.

The interior reminds us of the winter gardens of the great 19th century public parks, with a glass roof supported by refined structural solutions, where flourishing vegetation and pools of water form paths and spaces for community use.

Photos by Paul Czitrom, Paul Rivera, Timothy Hursley, courtesy of SMA – Text by Matteo Vercelloni

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Interior of the church of Josemaria Escrivá in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City.
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Portrait of Javier Sordo Madaleno.
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Bringas and nocturnal view of the church of Josemaria Escrivá from the pedestrian square. The internal light emerges from the gap between the two sinuous veils of the overall figure.
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View of the two-story dining room of the Nobu Restaurant with flat dark stones on the walls, and a large custom lamp that reinterprets the legacy of paper lamps by Isamu Noguchi.
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The main dining room and the sushi bar of the Nobu Restaurant; the large mangrove climbs to the ceiling with a geometric design, combining the regular modular pattern of the architectural motif with the unpredictable shapes of nature.
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The internal park of the shopping center of the Parque Toreo with the glass roof supported by refined structural solutions, and the flourishing vegetation with reflecting pools, like the winter gardens and large greenhouses of 19th-century public parks.
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Parque Toreo: view of the external facade paced by a rhomboid pattern whose connection lines light up in the evening, making the overall volume recognizable and iconic.