Designs of Mexico factories by the Milan practice of Giuseppe Caruso and Agata Torricella, selected for this monographic issue, belong to a broad research project on the ‘industrial building’ theme embarked on since 1995 for Tenaris and Ternium, two companies from the Techint group that manufacture seamless steel pipes and flat steel products.
As the designers explain: “This is a heavy industry that requires very high investments in plants and fixed installations, whose main features are their being rooted in specific places and in local communities and the presence in the same site of factory workers, technicians, technological workers and researchers, as well as commercial and administrative employees. This physical and social rooting and this simultaneous presence of manual and intellectual work imply a necessary large scale interaction with the natural and human environment, which is the basis for generating architectural necessities.” T
The projects published in these pages explicitly refer to this necessity, to the need to turn the factory and its offices into a reference in a landscape that leaves the globalising and anonymous model of the ‘industrial shed’. Industry architectures for experimenting with new figures, mixed types and places where interaction between manufacturing, service and training processes can generate forms that accompany service areas for staff (canteens, gyms, auditoriums) in an explicit and complete synthesis that can be recognized in terms of corporate identity and as “physical form of human institutions.”
In these projects, site plan solutions are characterized by the building layout along a path or various lines, as if to underline the foundation, urban value of this design, whether it is for an office building, for a manufacturing or service complex.
In the Tenaris Tamsa office building in Veracruz (2001) the different volumes are perpendicularly attached on the spine of the main path, a hundred metres long and with high glass portals at either end.
Just like the inner space, these reinterpret the strictly functional section of latest generation steelworks, and at the same time follow the archetypal shapes of the Cumaea Sibyl cave in Campania, of the pyramid corridors and the geometry of the Maya portal.
The large central mall is defined as a sort of ‘public space’ and a meeting area also when opening to local communities. In this carrier feature, great significance is taken by the permanent exhibition of Mexican art with works by Mathias Goeritz and Humberto Spindola.
Fronts are marked by a regular pattern with square openings bordered by a thick overhanging brise-soleil, and the use of strong colours that refer to the lesson by Luis Barragán. Also in the canteen buildings (2005) there are references to local architectural history.
In this case, the “palapa” type, the traditional wood building with a coconut leaf roof, is used as cover over the regular volumes of the glass buildings of the canteens. To its side, a parallelepiped covered with steel panels, with a covered
entrance painted red, hosts kitchen and services and establishes a successful confrontation and a calibrated compositional contamination between tradition and modernity
In the Centro Industrial Ternium in Pesquerìa (2014), the office building is attached to the industrial plant, with two large glass fronts overlooking the inside of production departments. The full height entry lobby leads to the various levels by stairs made of the same flat steel produced by the factory. This material was also used to cover the outside of the auditorium on the ground floor holding one hundred and fifty people.
In the outdoor area, particular care was devoted to the entry system, divided by type of public and corresponding type of transport. Accesses of visitors and of staff coming by car or on foot are organized beneath a large white canopy, as well as the entrances for suppliers and maintenance people. The covered entrance and checkpoint for trucks are located in a large tunnel with a crushed elliptic shape: an almost sculptural mark, covered in metal, which sparkles in the sun showing its function in an image with a strong identity.
Photos Giuseppe Caruso, Humberto Tachiquin Benito, Carlo Valsecchi / courtesy architects Caruso-Torricella