Alberto Kalach is a Mexican architect born in 1960. He earned his architectural degree at Ibero-American University in Mexico City, then at Cornell University in Ithaca, before co-founding the TAX company (“Taller de Arquitectura X”) in 1981 with Daniel Alvarez. He is now one of Mexico‘s most well-known architects, working on site-specific projects while maintaining a high regard for the natural environment. Kalach works with diverse scales, approaches, and interests. His ethical approaches can be seen in his works, from an intimate garden at his workshop to the Lakes Project, the coherent planning of Mexico City.
Alberto Kalach’s Relation with Architecture
In his interviews, Alberto Kalach mentions that he knew he wanted to be an architect from a very young age. He explains that at the age of nine he witnessed a house being built near his childhood home and found it fascinating. This was the first time he realised his interest in architecture. While searching for architecture through encyclopaedias, he sees Fallingwater by Frank Llyod Wright and says ‘that’s what I want to do!’. His site-specific works and natural boundaries can be found in the term “Organic Architecture,” which shares some similarities with Wright’s approach.
Alberto Kalach has a significant interest in gardening and nature itself, he found it fundamental in what it provokes. Thoughts about the garden as a part of the architecture, he suggests that the garden provides a pleasant, refreshing point for what is designed and structured. He values the universe, the human environment, the natural environment, urban planning, and ecological issues, as evidenced by his previous initiatives, approaches, and works.
‘We have been deforesting for hundreds of years and we have not given ourselves the task of recovering It’ (Alberto Kalach, 2018).
Taller de Arquitectura X
TAX is a Mexico-based architectural studio established by Alberto Kalach and Daniel Álvarez in 1981. The studio is represented as a lab, a greenhouse, and a learning team. With Alberto Kalach’s perspective of architecture, the TAX team creates projects to question, learn, explore, and redefine spaces with unavoidable geographic, economic, cultural, and temporal challenges. Approaching solutions with these backgrounds not only respects and celebrates the environment but also serves the site and cultural context.
Following examples from TAX’s projects can be an introduction to his works and show the ideological and ethical backgrounds of the studio led by Alberto Kalach.
Vasconcelos Library was designed by Alberto Kalach in Mexico City, in 2007. Mexico City is one of the most polluted and aggressive urban environments on the planet. Alberto Kalach’s approach to designing public places to encourage car-free solutions and greenery environments in such problematic issues led to the shaping of this project’s main characteristics. The 250-metre building consists of a public library and a botanical garden. The buildings and gardens create a refreshing point in the densely populated urban area. While reorganising human knowledge and connecting green areas, one of the main aims is to benefit natural systems as much as possible. The transparent walls, which work also as bookshelves, create open areas in the area. Thus, natural lighting and ventilation are two of the most important approaches to this building.
The building is also connected to the old industrial building at the bottom of the land. The plants wrapped around the structure also mitigate noise and create harmonious integration between buildings.
Tower 41 / Torre 41
Alberto Kalach in one of his interviews expresses that once a building passes a certain volume and scale, it becomes plainer and more separated from the surrounding landscape. It is possible to see his aim to avoid this and keep the building connected with natural benefits in his various tower projects. Tower 41 is also known for being a bioclimatic office building. It has seven stories and serves as an office building, but also the design of the stories with mezzanines and open volumes allows flexible use. Working with surrounding gardens and climate conditions allows the building to maximise benefits from resources. The building has no active heating or cooling systems, and the climatization of the building is provided by the orientations of openings and natural additions. The garden, waterfalls, and acoustic walls integrated into the building mitigate the noise pollution coming from the nearby road.
Philosophy and Ideology
Reviewing Alberto Kalach’s architectural journey and some of his projects, it is possible to see that his main concerns and approaches are common. His respectful stance towards nature and the universe, his approaches to resource consumption, one of today’s biggest problems, and the positive effects of the projects realised with these approaches draw attention. Gardening, which is his interest in trying to realise the relationship with nature in every project, is very effective, not only as a request but also in cases where it will be beneficial in terms of structure. The fact that Alberto Kalach is recognized as a diverse and powerful architect today is that he approaches every project according to its place and that he does not lose his ethical concerns in the background while searching for solutions to the area and function that he identifies as the problems.
His realisation of what human causes on earth led him to take responsibility on earth while designing places for the public. It can be said that one of his strongest approaches is to integrate nature and buildings to exist with nature, not against it.
- TAX. (n.d.). TAX. [online] Available at: https://www.kalach.com/ [Accessed 18 Oct. 2022].
- designboom, andy butler I. (2013). interview with alberto kalach of TAX / taller de arquitectura X. [online] designboom | architecture & design magazine. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/alberto-kalach-interview/ [Accessed 18 Oct. 2022].
- BOMB Magazine. (n.d.). BOMB Magazine | Alberto Kalach. [online] Available at: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/alberto-kalach/ [Accessed 18 Oct. 2022].
- ArchDaily. (2017). Alberto Kalach: ‘Imagine if All Rooftops in Our City Were Green!’ [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/877523/alberto-kalach-imagine-if-all-rooftops-in-our-city-were-green?ad_medium=gallery [Accessed 18 Oct. 2022].
- Design HotelsTM. (n.d.). The Design Diaries — Alberto Kalach. [online] Available at: https://www.designhotels.com/culture/architecture/the-design-diaries-alberto-kalach/ [Accessed 18 Oct. 2022].