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Erika Loana y Gabriela Sisniega


Erika Loana and Gabriela Sisniega, CDMX-Chihuahua (2020) - Materia Prima is a critical research project, born from the conceptual association between the intensive extraction of materials from the subsoil to transform them into construction materials, the lucrative destruction of the territory for the construction of another more visible one - the city and the urban - and the documentary record of the loss, filtered through the wear and tear in the Mexican landscape. By visualizing the impact of the extractive industry, its geographic location, and the radical transformations caused by its gigantic mechanical procedures, it also seeks to understand the impact of architecture on the land, the landscape, and the territory. By establishing the necessary limits between the spatial, geographical, economic and political dimensions of the transformation industry and its mechanisms of subtraction, it seeks to determine possible actions to revalue the traces left in these extractive landscapes that tell us that architecture is nothing more than a place made of other places.

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We asked Erika and Gabriela about Materia Prima and the importance for architecture to talk about territory, matter and where our working and construction materials come from.



A multidisciplinary architect, graduated from UNAM, her explorations are born from the idea of emptiness, ruin and abandonment; and her work has been consolidated in the transformation of architectural spaces to generate a new use. She has been a scholarship holder for the FONCA "Jóvenes Creadores" 2011-2012, and was part of the Somosmexas collective that as such managed ATEA, a multidisciplinary space for experimentation, where she coordinated the exhibitions and assemblies as well as carrying out her own urban research projects (2014). 


From 2013 to 2018 he coordinated all the architectural projects in the Secretary of Culture of the State of Morelos. She was part of the production and museography team at the Museo Jumex, and is currently studying for a Master's Degree in Heritage Conservation and Restoration at ENCRYM.



Architect and sociologist, she studied the postgraduate course in City Management and Creative Enterprises at the University of Córdoba, Argentina, and the master's degree in Social Sciences at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in Germany and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She has worked with different approaches; from architecture, design and the city, to public policy analysis and creative project management, to poetry, urban art and citizen participation. In 2018 she did an artistic residency in Detroit, addressing public art as a tool for community cohesion. In 2019 he presented his master's thesis "Urban Hacks for Social Change", about the new social movements in the city of Chihuahua, focusing on their knowledge production dynamics and their contributions to the configuration of the city.

What is the origin of the project?

The architectural practice of both has allowed us to apply, observe and question the current procedures of construction and extraction of materials in our country. We know that the construction industry has an environmental impact proportional to the speed of development that Mexican cities have reached.


At the same time, hikes and explorations have become part of our work. As researchers we like to find, walk around and record places that tell us stories about their transformation, either virtually or on foot. It was by chance that we discovered that from two different geographies (Chihuahua and Morelos) we were seeing the same thing and it was then that we decided to start the project.

Why should we talk about matter and territory today?

The territory is a projection of the society that transforms it, in it a geographic memory is developed, a palimpsest where the relations, symbologies and meanings of our society are reflected, then if the territory reflects us, what would it be telling us today? 


We know that the human factor is the dominant agent in the transformation of the landscape and the territory; the construction industry and the amount of waste generated are comparable to the birth of a mountain, erosion or the formation of mountain ranges. This accelerated rhythm with which we are transforming nature and the cities themselves, only translates into high factors of destruction and deterioration. 

We are, therefore, the factor of change and the raw material would be the first field of transformation. After all - architecture is nothing but a place where everything is made of pieces of other places.

What is Materia Prima?

Materia prima is a project born from the association between the materials extracted from the various sites and the destruction of this material to turn it into architecture. It registers the loss of everything that has "little" value in the territory to transform it; this constant use and disuse of materials.


Under this premise we developed a research project, with a critical approach, which aims to visualize the impact that the extractive industry generates on the Mexican landscape. Their encounters nourish a collaborative atlas of the materials used in the construction industry, including their geographical location and the transformations caused by the extraction and construction procedures, with the aim of better understanding the impact of architecture on the earth, as well as exploring alternatives that help establish the necessary boundaries between three dimensions: the spatial, the cultural and the political.

How were the places presented chosen?

The research developed in Materia Prima has started in three locations in the Mexican territory: Chihuahua, Morelos and Mexico City, where the landscape has been highly modified by the construction industry.


These three cities are the places where we were born, grew up and lived, therefore, the places that we know well and that are immediate for us to study carefully. This is important because it gives us a broader understanding of the landscape we see, being in contact with the environmental, cultural and political dimensions that shape it in a more subtle way. 


We were also influenced by the agents of change present in these three cities: the social movements, the projects, proposals and local struggles, people and collectives that have built reflection and counterweight in the interventions to the territory they inhabit.

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

We are sure that many architects have not thought about the industrialization processes involved in construction in Mexico. A very clear example is the cement industry, today the second most polluting industry on the planet, which we still revere in the form of perfect concrete constructions. 


We think it is fundamental that architecture recovers its connection with the processes of obtaining the materials it uses so that we can understand the importance of being responsible from our creative field. If, from raw materials, we can disseminate and evidence these processes, it is a first step towards that reconnection and towards ways of seeing the real cycles of destruction and construction on our planet. 


It is necessary to recognize the impact that we achieve as dominant agents on the landscape, just as we have not created reparation mechanisms that achieve production rates, or sufficient reuse strategies for the massive amount of waste.

Are you interested in Materia Prima's work?
These are some texts that have inspired their practice (Download the PDFs)
Neoliberalism - David Harvey.jpg

Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction

David Harvey

Echar a perder - Kevin Lynch.jpg

Echar a perder: Un análisis del deterioro

Kevin Lynch

Morfologia - Carl O Sauer.jpg

La morfología del paisaje

Carl O. Sauer

Tratado - Alain Roger.jpg

Breve tratado del paisaje

Alain Rogers

Two Essays - Georg Simmel.jpg

Two Essays

Georg Simmel