Published in 2011 in Merida, Mexico, Taller de Arquitectura Contextual, TACO, is a design agency that gets to the root of the spatial problems and offer creative solutions. Almost all of their works are based in Mexico’s south-east, the office works in many fields of architecture from urban to interior, landscape to furniture. On one hand, TACO employs young architects, designers and civil engineers, and on the other hand, they closely work with smiths and carpet makers whom they think take very important parts
in the solution. We had a pleasant interview with Carlos Patrón Ibarra, the founding architect of the company that we admire.
What was your motivation behind in the beginning of your design process?
I have been attracted to anything that involves working at the same time with my mind and hands, for as long as I can remember. I started drawing when I was kid, painting and making little pieces of furniture at my grandfather’s carpentry workshop. As a teenager I started to perceive how buildings were able to configure places and serve as a scenario for human living; I got captivated by their transcendentalism and all the history that they carry. I then realized that I wanted to create environments that would affect societies in a positive way, and found my way through architecture.
You are from Mexico. How was your design style influenced by the city and its geographical environment and culture?
I don’t believe in design style as a decision that architects make arbitrarily, or develop for commercial purposes. I believe in design style as the result of a complex analysis and deep understanding of the context where the designer is working (either is a city or not), which includes tangible and non-tangible factors, such as geographical environment and culture, in order to give solutions to specific situations. In that way, our practice’s design style changes due to our methodology that ensures a close relation with context.
How would you describe a “good design”?
I think a good design is more about finding the right question for an answer. There could be many ways to give correct answers, but all of them should be able to lead to the same meaning, and that is only possible if we come up with the right question.
A good design should also seem simple. That doesn’t mean the process to get there was actually simple, but at the end it should seem like it was. It is just like watching acrobats doing their thing: It may look easy but there is a long process behind that simplicity.
But that is not enough… there is always a non-rational component that takes design to a higher level. I call it emotion. With this, a good design turns into art.
Talking about sustainability and appearance, I see the first one as a must, and the second one as a reflection of the first one. I don’t think is a good idea to take them as separate concepts because the final product will lose its authenticity without a doubt.
“I don’t believe in design style as a decision that architects make arbitrarily, or develop for commercial purposes.”
What are some the “must elements” of your design?
I can’t imagine our practice without a previous contextual analysis that considers nature, built preexistence, local culture, historical issues, users’ needs, available materials, procedures, constructability, feasibility, maintenance, memory and sensibility, among many others. But when is time to conciliate all the considerations, we have some particular desires on letting our final users feel and appreciate the environment where they live, so that we have implemented private “public spaces” that link the building’s spaces between each other and with the city or public area; the ones that we design very carefully so they accomplish their purpose.
All of your projects are built in Mexico. Why is that? Do you have plans for any other countries in your agenda or will you continue building there?
We like working here and we will continue building here for sure, but we are also very open to work abroad. The truth is that we are a young studio and we are just starting to have contact with people and companies from other countries. We are prepared and very expectative to see, in the short term, how the results of our design process merge into cultures where we haven’t worked yet.
Can you talk a little bir more about your latest project Casa Gabriela? How does it differ from your previous projects?
Casa Gabriela has a lot of personal meaning. It was the first commission that I got when I graduated from architecture school, with barely any experiences on building. Its construction got frustrated by client’s priority changes and it took 5 years from then to resume the project. 5 years of experience and construction cost increments which was enough to make the decision to start all over again from scratch, looking for a simpler and more cohesive proposal. By the time we finished developing the new project, my team and I made a trip to Mexico City with the specific purpose of getting to know the architectural legacy of Luis Barragan, one of the architects that I admire the most, and somehow I never had the chance to be in until then. It really was an experience, and also an architectural lesson that you can only learn by being there. When we went back to work, I knew we had a lot to improve about the non-rational factor that I mentioned before: emotion. The Casa Gabriela project as built is the result of that search, incorporated to a set of learned lessons in our previous projects. For us, it means the manifesto of a first period of our practice.
What is next on your agenda?
We have some mixed use buildings on the row, as well as detached homes for particular clients. We are also working on some collaborative community projects to recover public spaces of a small Yucatecan town called Espita, where we have worked with for some years through a non-lucrative civil association, of which I am a founder member of.