27.2.05

Minds are of three kinds: one is capable of thinking for itself; another is able to understand the thinking of others; and a third can neither think for itself nor understand the thinking of others. The first is of the highest excellence, the second is excellent, and the third is worthless.

Machiavelli
[The Prince, Daniel Donno translation, Bantam, 1966, 1981 p. 80]

3.2.05

El lunes 31 de Enero presente una platica sobre Tijuana y generica arquitectura en UCLA. Eston son los apuntes de la conferencia.

Illusive borders - Part I

In the past two years the work done in my office has dealt with urban issues as it pertains to Tijuana, How does an architectural practice operate within a context that considers the practice of architecture a mere luxury while construction is a self generated endeavor. Tijuana’s elusive urban form, population growth and densities create an illusionary effect that scholars have been labeling into terms such post-urban, post border and hybridism. This illusiveness of Tijuana is a constant characteristic that outperforms any academic or historical terminology. In our office we have shifted strategies as much as Tijuana has morphed into a variety conditions. We began as any other office does - with the clean desk and waiting for client that sought good design as well as a chance for us to perform within the theories of contemporary architecture. This strategy soon changed and reorganized itself- in order to incorporate a series of alternative task - adding and substituting them along the way. We changed from the desire to be a critical practice to the need to be an alternative practice. One of the endeavors that emerged from this alternative organization is a research project that has taken two years one by generica and the other as a collaborative with Fiamma Montezemlo and Heriberto Yepez. The project began as a inquiry toward the dynamics of the city in its urban, cultural and social forms. In the last year we have produced a 300 page book on Tijuana called Here is Tijuana.


Slide1
I will begin with an assessment of the post-border rhetoric, specifically as it pertains to the city of Tijuana. It seems that a post border conditions operates under the assumption or concept of hybridization as a central element of a post border and defines a congruent state of dependency on both sides.

Slide 2-3
Normally - the region has been defined as the border between US/Mexico.
and Tijuana particularly as a zone of cultures in confluence. This includes an optimistic discourse about a hypothetical fusion, even though the real situation demonstrates dramatically the opposite.

It seems that the condition of post border -at least in its physical condition has not been achieved- as we see that in the past ten years we have seen the erection of two more divisions between the Tijuana / San Diego border. The urban conditions on either side has remained the same – in San Diego this area has not been urbanized and continues to be treated as a buffer zone and military base. On the Tijuana side the urban fabric still clustered along the fence.



Slide 3
Instead of a space of synthesis, interaction or hybridization – favorite term of the recent conceptualization of the border -, the US/Mexico border is shown as an example of a series of paradoxical strategies that form a separation.

For the average citizen trying to cross the border to the “other side” requires planning and strategy due to the fact that since the terror acts of September 11 the border has tightens security and alertness, making the cross as much as two hours in peak times.

Slide 4

For anybody that does not have legal documents, the border is much more of a struggle to get across then it was ten years ago. After the gulf war a metal wall made out of desert storm landing strips replaced the simple chain link fence that once marked the boundary. Operation gatekeeper made illegal immigration shift to the eastern desert and since its implementation there have been approximately 1500 deaths.

Slide 5

The effect the border has on family structure and is still very apparent as family members meet each other precisely at the fence to exchange words, letters, and money - a reality with social impact.

Slide 6

According to the Tito Alegria a resercher at the border think tank
The conceptualization of a “trans-border metropolis” is naturally inclined to be impressionistic, it contains a theoretical fallacy that is null of any substantial indicators.

Slide 7

In regards planning there exist broad differences. The planning associated with our neighbor San Diego has dealt with issues of environmental policy, pedestrian communities, and mix use urban living as in the case of the gas lamp in downtown. All planning issues on the border are dealt within San Diego. In the year 2000, the urbanized area of Tijuana had a density of 52 residents per acre compared to 11 residents per acre in San Diego


Slide 8

In Tijuana the lack of planning is evident as well as the problem of illegal settlements, the government has had a difficult task of bringing basic infrastructure to these areas, and all planning that happens along the Tijuana border is dealt with in Mexico City


Slide 9

Since the Mexican – American war where Tijuana became the territorial boundary of Mexico its development has been affected by violent process and this includes a confrontation with its geography - an image of hostility between the natural and the man made.
A contrast to San Diego where the city embraces and tries to create a symbiosis with nature, a strategy that Kevin Lynch articulated in his report temporary paradise, in the 1970’s


Slide 11

Economically there exist dependency but the gain is far from being equally favorable to both sides. In other terms, economic interaction stimulates local markets in both cities, but does not convert them into trans-border markets. Differences in salary and other factors do not permit a unified system.

Slide 12 y 13
Tijuana has a problem of unregulated business where the tax collecting is really a bribe to continue setting up shop in a particular space. Many of these businesses deal with merchandise that break copyright infringement laws, or its contraband from Asia, or prohibited material such as illegal DVD video games, computer software and box office hits – sometimes sold before being released in US theaters. It’s a problem - yet it is sometimes the only way to put food in the table due to the high tax tariffs and other high costs the government applies to small businesses. In Tijuana the US dollar is a valid type of currency while the peso is not in the US.

It might be that are certain specific cultural conditions that begin to operate within a post border condition, yet I believe that in a contextual analysis of both cities that condition is far from occurring. Tijuana does not define itself by cultural hybridization, but rather by the processes of contradictions, juxtapositions, encounters, asymmetry, paradox or disjunctives within cultures.


Tijuana’s essence is to manifest its elusiveness; the fact that it makes paradigms fail.


Illegitimate Representations – Part II

Slide 14
Slide 15

In the past two years the task of making a book has forced the
re-conceptualization of the contextual condition generica operates in. The concepts of its urban conditions have needed to be researched in our own way. This book summarizes this process – a rediscovering of Tijuana through three independents pair of eyes, two from Tijuana and one from Italy (of all places)
A writer, an architect and anthropologist, discuss, and confront each other on the diverse meaning the city presents and the histories it tells. A friend once said that Tijuana has more to do with novels of science fiction than text of the history of Mexico, yet I believe as Heriberto Yepez affirmed - that Tijuana is a city of a futureless science fiction.

The book is divided into seven sections I will illustrate a few of them tonight.

As the concept of the city gets reinterpreted by the despatializing of the local,
the notion of urban space is being restructured by global circumstances. As in many other postmodern urban conditions, the contemporary city is complex and unfathomable – Aquí es Tijuana intends to register the process that makes up this new paradigm of the city.

Aquí esTtijuana is primarily a visual endeavor where images and information are recorded in order for the user to come upon an open ended concept of the city.. An info-graphic walkthrough of one of the most emblematic cities of globalization and post-modernity. Aquí es Tijuana is a guide where the user can construct his own vision of Tijuana, a city in the process of defining itself. The content of the book is made up of brief data and information, statistics, quotes, fragments of texts, as well as a network of texts that intermingle and coincide with the visual urban space of Tijuana. Published in October.

Slide 16

Slide 17

Slide 18
Economic disparities the ideal image the city wants to portray and the reality we see on the street everyday.

Slide 19

Tijuana where transnational companies have been able to set up shop and take advantage of low wages and the other condition of the immigrant worker and his daily commute.
Slide 20

Tijuana buildings are a mixture of las vegas and rem koolhas junkspace iconography.

Slide 21

Tijuana has a symphony orchestra mostly made up of Cuban and Russian musicians while the local country music trios and bands musicians come from the interior of the country.

Slide 22

The phenomena of the maquiladora or manufacturing plant has had a major impact in the development of the city mostly in its housing sector. Tijuana was the leading manufacturer of televisions in the world.

Slide 23

The other manufacturing takes place in a garage. The serialization of characters is a common item for tourist and locals,

Slide 24
The Serialization of housing has become common as well. Developers are building thousands of micro homes in the name of social housing. Some have only 270 sq ft in area, insufficient space for a family of three, with no room for expansion.

Slide 25
Developments that in the last ten years has changed the structure of low income housing from self built shacks to serialized units subsidized by the government.

Slide 26

This new developments have are part of what its called the new Tijuana to the east of the city and space that has its own recreation centers and its own cultural and social make up. Its where today half of the population of Tijuana lives.

Slide 27, 28 , 29

In a section called permutations we have the diverse building techniques and material some that are not traditional materials for building such as tires, pallets and other materials that are just reinterpreted in their use such as garage doors functioning as walls. Used to build houses, shops, stairs retaining walls etc.


Slide 30

Tijuana easily forgets. It does not have much reverence for important buildings and architects just fabricate and import visions of non existent histories.

Slide 31 and 32 los itos
That is why I enjoy this series by the Tijuana artist Melisa Arreola. This images inform us of the necessity that Tijuana has for a past a desire for -urban artifacts- as Aldo Rossi called objects that form part of a collective memory.


Slide 33
La Mona. From all the sections in the book its was hard for me figure out where to place this structure. For its creator is a desire to have made his house in the form of a woman. A full figure woman that has not the classical physique an ugly woman in classical terms maybe as ugly as Tijuana is for its excesses. Yet it fulfills him completely he cooks in the stomach, sleeps in the breasts and everyday when he goes out to work he is reborn, because the main entry is literary between her legs.


Illicit Acts of Urbanism - Part III

Slide 34
After the concluding with the research for the book I was hired by the architectural league of New York to present Tijuana in their world view cities web page. I decided to create my own history of Tijuana in terms of illegalities or in terms of illicit acts.


Slide 35 absolute illegal de Melisa Arreola

This image represents various concepts of the border. That the border has been commercialized and exploited due to its exotic condition that it portrays and its real issues seem to be sometimes ignored, especially in the arts. Second Tijuana is for me absolute illegal if there is propaganda more apt to represent its urban origin it’s the one dealing with illegality.

Since its conception, the idea of illegality has been the driving force behind its dystopian condition. Within a framework of illegality, exist instances of violent processes, that until recently have become the modus operandi of urban transformation.

An illegality, separated from morality and sometimes a need or necessity - a way of life.


Slide 36

The first plan of the city drafted in 1889, became the ideal form to unlawfully alter. The grid, that paradigm of urban space, was now the instigator on the brink of illegality. When the beaux-arts plan was laid out, diagonal boulevards transverse the orthogonal parcels and connected a series of plazas. In places where the diagonals touched a parcel, a confrontation existed of a vicious manner. Landowners began to transgress the axial paths by building into them in order to obtain a greater amount of land. By 1921, the public diagonal paths had become a crippled desire of order and control, a failed plan to produce Cartesian logic.

Slide 37 –

Today, the only remnant piece of the diagonals is plaza Santa Cecilia, located on the verge of decency near the prostitution area of the Zona Norte and the “family” oriented Revolution Street.



Slide 38

During prohibition in the United States, Tijuana became an accomplice to bootlegging and drunkenness by becoming an oasis of bars and liquor stores that served Americans during the Volstead law of the 1920’s. The origins of Mexicali beer, “La Ballena” (considered to have the longest bar in the world), saloons, prostitution and other illicit acts, that accompany inebriated recreation

The Tijuana race track came into being during this time, financed by Californians, and open its doors in 1916 and since then it is part of a violent and unlawful history that until today has become the spotlight of controversy.



Slide 39


In 1928 American entrepreneurs, trying to make a profit by making Tijuana, the precursor to Las Vegas, founded the Agua Caliente Casino. The casino pampered Hollywood celebrities such as Buster Keaton and Rita Hayworth, had race horse jack pots in the thousands of dollars and proliferated the opening of bars and hotels. The casino was such a success that the US government in trying to stop its citizens from enjoying themselves closed the border at 9 pm every night. This only made the local hotels in Tijuana more prosperous due to the fact the Americans decided to stay overnight. During the US, depression the casinos and the commercial strips of downtown Tijuana flourished economically, yet all of this would come to an end in 1939 when by presidential decree, the Casino was converted into a school and gambling was prohibited in Mexico.

Slide 40


During the beginning of the Second World War, the US sent its young laboring men into the military service leaving the fields of California without hands to work the land. The Bracero program of 1942 became another incentive to immigrate to Tijuana and work in California. Immigration quadrupled the city’s’ population in a decade and originated the phenomenon that still plagues it, uncontrolled growth, invasion of property, and illegal immigration. Even after the war, Americans felt obliged to hire illegal workforce in agriculture, construction and low paying service jobs. Many of these immigrants settled illegally in different parts of the city, but one of the most problematic invasions was happening in the River Zone next to the border and referred to as cartolandia or carton-land. Displacement of people from this area became 20 year endeavor terminating with a violent act in1979 that was to launch the city of Tijuana into modernity an erroneous premise of bureaucrats in Mexico City. During this time, heavy rains came down upon the city and the Rodriguez Dam had a significant amount of reserve that according to state officials needed to be released and without previous notice, the water swept away the carton made shacks.


The canal was part of a project that included boulevards similar to the one in Mexico City and other infrastructures that would intent to Mexicanize Tijuana by force. The Tijuana Cultural Center was one of the institutions that flourished from the illicit act of the River Zone

Slide 43 44 45 46 47


Modernization and progress is supposedly what foreign industries where to offer Tijuana.
Maquiladoras are manufacturing plants that take advantage of cheap labor and relaxed regulations that the Mexican government allows on dumping of hazardous material. Acids, solvents and other poisons are liberated into the environment along the industrial parks of Tijuana. The Maquiladoras promoted jobs and security to an incoming population that settled in the eastern part of the city. Some of the communities began as invasions of property.
Today developers are building with the flag of social housing, homes that even the UN calls unfit for dignified living. Erecting homes in a serialized fashion covering extensive areas of land. In comparison to these communities, the invasion type development is greener and has improved in the past years. An act of illegality that became a positive outcome, where the fundamental precept of mens rea, does not apply, while the “legal” constructions of greedy developers are a product of a faulty government codes where loopholes become the main conduit of shady legality.


Squatter communities have illegal origins yet as they begin become legalized areas of the cities and infrastructures begin to appear, they tend to change into more formal communities and with a diverse spatial conditions. This does not happen in the serialized housing developments they are rented out and they loose their value and due to this condition a sense of community in never achieved.


Illfated architecture – Part IV

Our project dealt with a variety of issues. One a counter position to the institutionalized architecture of the 1970 that was imposed on Tijuana. The project intends to point out that most of the art and artist that have been working in Tijuana have done so on the street in auto didactical manner. The real art is in the city. The fence or grill work intends to represent this as well as its double meaning of safeguarding your patrimony from outsiders. Its permeability contrasts the original building heaviness and solidness. The public program is the focal point of the project and its elevated and protected with the grill work while the museum functions are located on grade or below grade. The building opens to the city via a large public plaza; the box in the box scheme lets interstitial spaces interact with the different lighting conditions the grill generates. The museum representation of modernity is in question, this museum intends to bring out artistic practices to the open and enclose the public space in a transparency.


Presentacion de dos proyectos de generica. Cecut y edificio Mandelbrot

Fin