Architectuul. the blog
Under Construction: Tatiana Bilbao Exhibition


You can travel to a remote village in any country around the world and discover an array of building techniques, materials and traditions that are inherent to that culture. These elements coalesce to tell a story about that town’s history and identity. Embracing the local character through her architecture, Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao has formed a body of work that both exudes authenticity while bolstering much needed trade in each region she has worked. This process has thus shaped the outcome of each project but has also been accompanied by its own set of challenges.

Taking the practice of building as a starting point, Andreas Ruby has curated an exhibition featuring Bilbao’s work from a unique perspective, only showing projects as the title implies ‘Under Construction’. This latest exhibition which is being shown at the Architektur Galerie Berlin until 19th October 2013, does not display a single finished project. To further convey the concept, a wooden structure typically seen on a construction site anywhere in Mexico has been deftly inserted into the space. The weathered timber beams create a platform, like a make-shift mezzanine level, slicing across the crisp gallery. In Bilbao’s native Mexico, this type of structure is often employed during the building process and in particular is utilised for reconstruction work. Visitors to the space weave their way beneath the platform where construction images are tacked on to the wooden structural frame in a linear, consecutive order. The images read like a time-lapse series, imparting a raw sense of the building methods. After talking to both Bilbao and Ruby about the motivation to present architecture from this point of view, they expressed that it fits the methodology behind Bilbao’s work but more importantly it highlights an integral aspect of architecture that is often neglected.

The project which put Bilbao on this idiomatic trajectory was Orozco House designed in 2004 for the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. Despite the architectural complexity that this building encompassed, Orozco insisted on using only local people. These workers were untrained and often illiterate, making the interpretation of plans impossible. Therefore the established systems of communication had to be altered and reduced to the simplest forms readily available, one such example was to draw details in the sand. Many architects would shy away from tackling a project like this and find an easier solution by bringing in skilled labourers. Aside from shifting the economic benefits away from the community, that approach would also nullify any vernacular context. Bilbao articulates more poignantly on the subject by explaining that the impact of context effects more than just the design, she says that people often talk about context yet they are merely referring to environmental factors such as orientation and climate. For Bilbao, a true sense of context can be found in the way a building integrates into its locality and by the lasting impact it has on a community.