If it wasn’t obvious beforehand, the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a new and urgent light on the importance of accessible outdoor spaces to the wellbeing of urban communities. For people without backyards or balconies, a nearby park, plaza or playground isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity linked to health and happiness. How, though, do you incorporate such amenities into established areas of densely populated metropolises such as Mexico City?
In the case of local architecture studio Productora, you take the middle road — or, more specifically, a large ridge running down the centre of a boulevard on the outskirts of the capital — and turn it into much-needed infrastructure. The site of Productora’s intervention — a housing development in the suburb of Tlalnepantla de Baz, a municipality just north of Mexico City — is symbolically appropriate: Tlalnepantla’s name combines the Nahuatl words tlalli and nepantla to mean “the middle land.”
Part of a public–private initiative to improve civic space in the capital’s environs, the new park adapts to the topography of the ridge, connecting nine squares via stairs and ramps. Each of the plazas measures 20 by 20 metres, reflecting a geometric bent that defines the entire 9,800-square-metre project. Fitted with pink concrete elements, they also have individual prescribed functions: There’s a ceremonial square with a flagpole, an outdoor gym, a skate park and a playground, plus a tree-lined square, “a square with square benches,” one containing a triangular pavilion and two multipurpose courts with bleachers.
And even though the park sits on a median and is enclosed by a sidewalk and a running track, it doesn’t feel like an island. The walkways that link each plaza also connect them to the sidewalk, which in turn melds into an improved streetscape (including updated city sidewalks and lighting) also overseen by Productora. To use anatomical metaphors, the site is both a new spine and a heart for the area, bolstering its strength — and its allure — as a place to live.
The award-winning Mexican practice leverages a number of concrete interventions to reimagine a once neglected middle ground as a new community hub.