Pilares Azcapotzalco Community Center
Pilares Azcapotzalco Community Center
WORKac + IUA Ignacio Urquiza Arquitectos
Mexico City, Mexico
In 2018, Mexico City’s government launched the PILARES initiative (an acronym for Points of Innovation, Freedom, Art, Education, and Knowledge) that would result in one hundred community centers distributed across the most underserved neighborhoods in the city.
Each PILARES building is designed to support various kinds of classes and workshops in support of skill building, as well as bringing cultural programming, learning opportunities, and safe spaces for leisure and cross-generational gatherings to each neighborhood.
In January 2020, Mexico’s government decided to enlist a number of international design studios to design and oversee the construction of 26 of the PILARES, asking each practice to focus on the conditions of its site and social context to address the community’s specific needs while also following the programming guidelines that had been established through extensive community engagement.
Our specific sites called for space for cyberschool and robotics classes and the capacity for jewelry-making and screenprinting classes and workshops.
In collaboration with Ignacio Urquiza Architects, we dove into researching existing PILARES buildings to better understand how each center relates to its specific community.
It became evident to us that what the PILARES most needed was, first, an intimate connection between inside and outside at street level, with access to the outdoors and whatever public space could be carved out of each side, and second, complete flexibility to allow for organic adaptation of the spaces and encourage a variety of uses.
It appeared central to us that there be the built-in capacity for visitors to completely appropriate and transform these spaces to their needs.
PILARES Lomas de Becerra and PILARES Azcapotzalco are positioned on sites with similar physical characteristics: both are located at a busy intersection on corner properties with existing vegetation.
The arrangement of the volumes considers the existing trees, which we incorporated into the shape of the buildings.
Diagonal cuts on the ground floor provide clear and free-flowing pedestrian routes in any direction, inviting users to walk around the park and enter the building.
The diagonal walls set in the plaza serve as a curtain and transition between the exterior and interior spaces.
The ground floor of PILARES Lomas de Becerra includes an access platform that also serves as both an auditorium and staircase for cultural activities.
Both ground floors are open with interior spaces marked by a lightweight glass façade that can open outwards, expanding the spaces into the street, making it accessible to pedestrians and the whole community as a place of encounter and to enjoy cultural and social activities.
The buildings are organized into three floors, each consisting of four platforms centered around a central staircase, providing natural light and ventilation.
The vertical circulations start from the central staircase, and each platform is interconnected using stairways and the central elevator.
Some platforms also have ramps that double as multipurpose spaces, while others are designed specifically for particular activities that require dedicated spaces.
Since opening, both WORKac and IUA’s PILARES projects have taken on a life of their own. With some spaces, such as the studio-like environments with desks and computers being used as intended, other spaces have been left more open, enabling physical activities and classes, including martial arts, dance and hip-hop classes, and yoga – where we can see intergenerational participation and the fulfilled desire for a space in which to move, learn, and live.