Born on 2nd August 1972 in a family of architects, Tatiana Bilbao is a Mexican architect whose works often merges geometry with nature. Her practice usually focuses on social housing and sustainable design. Bilbao is also a professor at Yale University and has previous teaching experience at Harvard University. She has been recognized with various awards namely, the Kunstpreis Berlin (2012), Emerging Voice by the Architecture League of New York (2010), the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture Prize by the LOCUS Foundation (2014), the Marcus Prize Award 2019, and Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medal of 2020. 

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Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao_©Ana Hop

In 2004, Tatiana Bilbao began her ESTUDIO (eponymous studio) under which several projects were taken up in various countries like China, France, Mexico, etc. The studio intends to integrate social values and collaborative as well as sensitive design approaches. Before founding the firm, she was an Advisor in the Ministry of Development and Housing of Mexico City. Some of her varied works include a master layout and open chapel in Jalisco, the Botanical Garden in Culiacán, a Biotechnological Center for a Tech Institution, a sustainable housing prototype, and a funeral home. Be it an artsy botanical garden in Mexico or a  monastery in Germany, the architect’s top priority has always been the health and well-being of the end-users.

Philosophy

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Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao expresses her philosophy of how architecture should be primarily designed according to the user’s experience in mind, rather than for self-contained aesthetics. She believes that to some extent, architects should let go of their artistic intentions for a more practical approach to serve the needs of people.

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Affordable housing prototype_©architecturaldigest

Designing luxury homes for rich clients, she has worked on several affordable mass housing prototypes for the poor too. Thus Bilbao has worked on a variety of projects throughout her life, but her biggest passion has always been housing. The architect’s vision is ‘Architecture has the power to change lives ‘. It is Bilbao’s firm belief that every citizen has the right to a “dignified and enjoyable house” and if the government is unable to provide that, then it’s down to her as an architect to make a difference.

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An illustration showing the user’s activities amidst the structure_©dezeen.com

In her book “A House is Not Just a House”, she said, “We can’t forget that housing is a human right. Houses are not just for sale. Houses are for people, and we have to think of them first.” Thus her studio’s philosophy is also based on social and political awareness, opening up niches for localized cultural and economic development. Tatiana Bilbao believes that architecture is about “making places and spaces, by people, for people,” thus signifying how a building is inhabited as well as leaving a mark of those who built it. The studio maintains the ethos of labor-intensive, handmade buildings, generating job opportunities in Mexico. Not replacing people with machines ultimately gives the outcome raw energy.

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In 2015, during the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Bilbao revealed her “modular housing strategy,” which aimed at diminishing the country’s affordable housing shortage. The architect views architecture as a platform that can enhance the lives of people and act as an inspiration. She believes architecture is not just about building a building but building a community and thus it’s very important to understand the end-users before designing. 

Ideology

Bilbao tends to prefer essential forms and modest materials even when a client and budget allow greater freedom. She doesn’t shy away from displaying bold gestures whenever context calls for them. The Ventura House which she describes as “a lab of architectonic experiences” is an eye-catching cluster of pentagonal volumes located on a mountain overlooking Monterrey. 

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Bilbao’s work exhibition containing 3D models, sketches, and collages instead of software renderings_©worldarchitecture.org

Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao’s work exhibitions contain 3D models, sketches, and collages instead of software renderings. She refuses to produce software visualizations of designs while in progress. Instead, she believes in making collages to help to develop better and more creative structures. She believes collages foster a more collaborative approach towards design rather than finalized images which hamper the design process. As renders give a fixed image into a client’s mind, it might destroy the creative design development process.

Bilbao’s first collage idea (Casa Ventura)_©freecaddownload.com

Tatiana Bilbao thinks a collage has the strength to accept all diversities, ideas, and complexities as well as the mistakes during the process. The idea of using collage came accidentally while she was working on one of her best-known projects, Casa Ventura. For Bilbao, Collaboration is the key, she likes to involve other creative minds too rather than working out everything herself. 

The takeaways would be that architecture should always be ‘to the people, for the people, and by the people ’. The outcome, as well as process both, are equally creative and important. The architect’s passion, philosophies, and ideologies inspire young architects guiding towards a brighter side in the future.

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References:

ArchDaily. 2021. Tatiana Bilbao: Creating Spaces with Relevance Means “Enhancing Someone’s Life” https://www.archdaily.com/884284/tatiana-bilbao-creating-spaces-with-relevance-means-enhancing-someones-life

Frearson, A., 2021. “We banned renders” from the design process says Tatiana Bilbao. Dezeen. https://www.dezeen.com/2019/12/04/tatiana-bilbao-banned-renderings-architecture-interview/

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En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Tatiana Bilbao – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatiana_Bilbao

Architectuul.com. 2021. Tatiana Bilbao. http://architectuul.com/architect/tatiana-bilbao

Montes, G., 2021. Tatiana Bilbao Creates Bold Architecture with a Social Conscience – Galerie. . https://www.galeriemagazine.com/tatiana-bilbao-architecture-trailblazer/

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Nast, C., 2021. Mexican Architect Tatiana Bilbao Reimagines Smart Affordable Housing. Architectural Digest. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/mexican-architect-tatiana-bilbao

Author

Manali is a fresher in the world of architecture. Holding a strong passion for writing and profession of architecture, she has a vision to combine them both along with her skills of research and analysis to make this world a better place for all.

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