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Oficina de Resiliencia Urbana


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OFICINA DE RESILIENCIA URBANA, Elena Tudela, Adriana Chávez, Víctor Rico, CDMX-Los Cabos, (2020) - Jardín de sombras are two parallel projects, located in one of the most marginal and hurricane-prone urban areas of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur. In Mexico's most arid state, the shadows are shelter, infrastructure and landscape; they contribute to the creation of a microclimate, and the intensive use of public space. On the other hand, by using native and xerophytic vegetation, they also promote a local environmental identity, while mitigating the heat island effect. Both projects recover an abandoned space: while one is adapted to an inaccessible space, the other is adjacent to an illegal junkyard. Water is animated through its run-off, channeled to a series of infiltration gardens, while the roofs collect rainwater that is stored and reused for bathing, irrigation and emergencies. The project seeks to be an ecosystem articulated by the shadows and the water -more than by the buildings- to turn it into a multipurpose space, ranging from a field to play soccer to an amphitheater to feel the spectacle of the breeze in the afternoon, or a safe shelter for everyone in case of emergency.



We asked ORU about Jardín de Sombras and the importance for architecture to talk about design strategies and research in contemporary practices.





ORU - Oficina de Resiliencia Urbana is a Mexico City-based urban design and applied research practice that has specialized in climate-sensitive landscape resilience and infrastructure. ORU is formed by a team with more than ten years of experience in the academic, public and private sectors, as well as in various multilateral organizations.

The office explores the possibility of urban-environmental integration at different scales within multiple social, economic and political contexts. ORU works from a collaborative approach, teaming up with the most experienced professionals in multiple fields of knowledge to effectively connect the most pressing needs of the world's urban regions with the best solutions available.

What is the origin of the project?

Jardín de Sombras was developed through an initiative between the School of Architecture of the UNAM and the Ministry of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (SEDATU) and is part of a broader initiative, as an emblematic one, of the Urban Improvement Program, implemented in some of the most marginalized communities in Mexico. The project is located in one of the most marginal urban areas north of Los Cabos in Baja California Sur, the most arid state in Mexico with the highest number of direct impacts from hurricanes and tropical storms. The city of Los Cabos is highly exposed to those impacts that cause river and coastal flooding, as well as droughts that threaten water availability.

How does research influence your design process?

“The design reflects the management praxis of building something, while the project indicates the strategy on which something must be produced, must be brought into the presence”

Pier Vittorio Aureli

As members of the design disciplines, we create models, prototypes and proposals that occupy a dialectic space between a world that is and a world that is possible. The research process has allowed us to inform our understanding in multiple dimensions that range from history, the environment, and the socio-political and economic contexts of a place or region. Thus, we can try to orchestrate - through the tools of design - multiple stakeholders (community, politicians, investors and technicians), to spatialize and materialize experimental or anticipatory urban visions, whose fundamental objectives are: the improvement of the human experience in the built environment, the universal principles of equity and the integration of the natural and urban domains.

What is Jardín de Sombras?

The "Garden of Shadows" is an infrastructure of public space that creates a microclimate, promotes a local cultural and environmental identity and supports risk and disaster management in the area. The use of native and xerophilic vegetation helps to mitigate the heat island effect, increases the comfort of the resting spaces and reinforces the local identity. It recovers an abandoned and underused space. It integrates a water channel and terraces to channel water from runoff to a series of infiltration gardens to mitigate flooding and water the vegetated areas. The roof structure collects rainwater that is stored in a subway cistern. The collected water can be used for bathing, irrigation and emergency storage. The roof provides shade and a multipurpose and adaptable space for sports or an amphitheater space, which can be converted into a shelter or a logistical space area in case of emergency.

Why implement a strategy and action design methodology over the traditional executive project format?

An executive project, by itself, does not contribute to guarantee the success of the projects in time, as much as a mechanism of design and implementation. From past experience, our team has developed an innovative collaborative methodology called the Integral Design and Implementation Mechanism (MIDI). It is a pipeline of technical steps, and design, political events, and legal and financial mechanisms, that contributes to the successful implementation of a project or a set of projects. This methodology incorporates a variety of inputs to ensure that each stage is completed using the best available knowledge, experience and talent. The set of successive and interconnected stages guides a collaborative design process among a group of high-level technical experts, public and private entities, civil society, academia, and community members. The process helps to create a common understanding and trust to frame a long-term vision.

How does your practice relate to architecture, and where do you see its impact on the future of the discipline?

“The most far-sighted thing that can be done with architecture today is a kind of reflection on what it really means.”

Reiner de Graaf.

Traditional architecture continues to operate with myopia and at scales that can hardly respond to challenges with the urgency required. ORU questions the mandate with which the architect has been entrusted, and we invite the whole community to rethink the direction and field of action that we should take the disciplines of urban design, landscape design and especially architecture, if what we aim to do is to influence the most important decisions in the face of the greatest challenges and vulnerabilities of the urbanization processes of the 21st century.

As designers we encourage the community of design disciplines to consider blurring the boundaries of architecture with those of other fields of knowledge in order to continue expanding the scope of our intellectual, and formal, repertoire to understand new challenges and other ways in which design can make this world a better place. We invite the community to rethink what "design" is, and what it can do for us.

Are you interested in the work of ORU?
These are some texts that have inspired their practice (Download the PDFs)


James Corner

An absolute architecture - Pier Vittrori

Toward the Archipielago

Pier Vittorio Aureli

The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention

James Corner

landscape-urbanism-reader-charles waldhe

The Landscape Urbanism Reader

Charles Waldheim

Erle Ellis Anthropocene.jpg

Ecologies of the Anthropocene: Global Upscaling of Social-Ecological Infrastructures

Erle C. Ellis


Megaform as Urban Landscape

Kenneth Frampton

The Culture of Description

Manuel de Solá-Morales