The Architect Opens Up His Modernist Mexican Villa For the First Time
“To me, this house is the ultimate modernity dream come true,” says Fernando Romero of the two-story, mid-century gem he calls home. “It is extremely flexible for all types of activities: for family, for socializing, for living.” Designed in 1955 by homegrown architect Francisco Artigas, the house is located in the leafy suburbs of Mexico City, adjacent to one of largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, Bosque de Chapultepec. Romero has lived in the house with his wife and five children since 2010, yet this is the first time anybody has been granted access to document his private family villa. Before founding his architecture practice FR-EE in 2000, Romero—along with Bjarke Ingels and Ole Scheeren—began his career at OMA as a protégé of Dutch starchitect Rem Koolhas. Recognized for his futuristic aesthetic and his sustainable agenda, Romero’s impressive Soumaya Museum in downtown Mexico City is a curvaceous, aluminum-tiled building that houses the world-class art collection of telecommunications billionaire, Carlos Slim, who also happens to be his father in-law. Next, Romero is putting the finishing touches on the Miami Chapel in Florida, a museum in Panama, and a Contemporary Art Museum in Tulum. “The underground Mexico City Aquarium near the Soumaya is expected to be completed in a few months time too, and we are also doing heavy research and design for a 21st-century city for emerging economies: the FR-EE City!”
Can you tell us about the home’s architect, Francisco Artigas?
Fernando Romero: He was a Mexican autodidact architect mainly known for developments in the wealthy Pedregal and San Ángel neighborhoods south of Mexico City. The architecture is strongly influenced by Artigas’ contemporary, the California-based Richard Neutra.
Tell us about the layout of the house?
FR: I like that the house has a very efficient L-shaped two-story floor plan organizing the private spaces on the upper floor, while all public and social spaces are located at the ground floor. A double-height interior patio covered by a skylight provides natural lighting to both stories, while the social areas are directly connected to the garden and an outdoor pool.
Is the architecture typical for the neighborhood?
FR: This house is a small surprise because these types of villas were more popular in the southern Pedregal and San Ángel neighborhoods of the city.
Did you make any changes to the house when you moved in?
FR: On the contrary, for my family and me, it was all about preserving it and taking good care of it.
What is your idea of the perfect house?
FR: At this moment in my life, an invisible house.
The Spanish Designer Lets Us Into Her Milanese Home and Studio
“When I went to Madrid to study architecture, you had to experiment—it was not enough to just be an architect,” says Patricia Urquiola, the Spanish designer recognized for a meteoric rise that saw her break into a male-dominated industry as both an architect and product designer. “When I arrived in Milan I had that attitude. On the surface I was a nice girl doing her homework but actually, I was not so gentle.” Known for her bright, poetic furniture forms, Urquiola is captured in her Milanese apartment surrounded by her collaborative works with Flos, Alessi and B&B Italia. Her approach pays scant attention to the boundaries of traditional practices. “I feel more Milanese than Italian, but still absolutely connected to my Spanish roots,” says the non-conforming creative, whose mentors include her long-term teacher at the Politecnico di Milano, industrial designer Achille Castiglione, and Vico Magistretti, the godfather of modern Italian design. “Being a designer or being an architect, it’s a continuum.”
The Drone According to the Dutch Iconoclast
“I got mine from my friend Piero Gandini, the man behind Flos,” says Marcel Wanders of acquiring his first drone. “We have the same kind of playful spirit. He flies it to me, then I fly it back.” In the latest installment of On Design, the Dutch designer explores the appeal of his favorite flying object, which he sees as having a similar potential for humanity as the motorcar. Named by Wallpaper* as one of the leading designers of the last 15 years, he first caught international attention with his Knotted Chair, which won the Rotterdam Design Prize and was exhibited at MoMA, New York. A major retrospective of Wanders’ career showcasing over 400 objects is currently running at the Stedilijk Museum in Amsterdam, while his latest project is the Hotel Mira Moon in Hong Kong, which he designed for yoo Studio. Salvaging elements of Chinese myth, the Wan Chao District hideout is a perfect example of Wanders’ nuanced nature. “It’s not like Vegas where things have a theme,” says the maverick designer who was once expelled from the Design Academy in Eindhoven where he was considered “un-teachable.” “We try to find connections to local culture, and try to buy some old, antique objects that are embedded with stories.”
If you could spy on anyone with your drone, who would it be?
Marcel Wanders: That’s an interesting question. My drone is not that great at flying. My girlfriend has been out of the house for 12 days so I’d like to see what she’s doing. She’s in the Caribbean so it might get lost.
What is your biggest design inspiration?
MW: I think true inspiration is inside. It is the certainty that I’m here to do my work. The fact that I know I’m here for a reason, that I will find answers for the questions I have. That’s the stuff that wakes me up in the middle of the night to scribble notes on a piece of paper.
How does it feel too have a major retrospective at the Stedelijk?
MW: It is an extremely important point in my life. The Stedelijk is one of the leading museums in the world for design and to be on that podium is just amazing. I want my work to be viewed, frowned upon—I make it to share.
Marcel Wanders Pinned Up At The Stedelijk continues until 15 June.