One of the precedents around the world in relation to the legal protection of landscapes,
from large natural reserves to genuine settlements, is Mexico. There are laws dating from
the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, it was from the middle of the 20th
century when all efforts began to concentrate on defining legislation that nowadays
protects the Mexican landscape heritage. If we look through the Mexican projects that
have been presented at the International Biennial of Landscape of Barcelona, we can find
a trait that most of the works have in common: landscape is not reduced to something
merely natural, it investigates the cultural aspects, emphasizing on social aspects and
how they re-evaluate and interact with what surrounds them. These works reflect how the
landscape can become an incentive, how it can become a starting point and, with the help
of construction, or in some cases non-construction, how the landscape can show the most
intrinsic values of the territory.
The objectives set by the different landscape policies of Mexico are provided with different
instruments and strategies to give specific response and achieve the challenges. Thanks
to the legal framework established by Mexico's historic and cultural landscape Law,
promoted by the federal deputy Uriel Flores Aguayo (member of the parliamentary group
of El Partido de la Revolución Democratica) in May 2015, landscape is set as a dualcomponent
concept, spatial and temporal, but also multi-scalar. Subjectivity influences the
interpretation of the definition, so it is difficult to define it objectively. For this reason, the
law proposes the necessary tools to achieve the conservation and management that
belong, in part, to public administrations that have the power to influence landscape.
Ordinances, landscape studies, relevant landscape catalogues, impact analysis and
landscape integration, landscape action projects, etc. are all tools systematized by the law,
which also specifies who should execute them (regional governments or city councils).
Mexican cities have undergone stress regarding city-planning induced by the demand of
housing needed to cover migration. Consequently, public spaces are left abandoned and
end up weakened. Due to this urban transformation residual spaces have appeared, of
which some are now the starting point for the recovery of cultural, environmental and
sustainable values all through the creation of new landscape architecture. Through a cross
vision of the site, these landscape architectures not only integrate their pre-existences, but
also put on the table the problems and worries of the people that have to be solved during
these changing processes.
There is, obviously, an interest in historic value when reconverting a site. This is shown in
the project of Copalita, eco-archaeological park (Huatulco) designed by Mario Eduardo
Schjentan; and, also, in Malinalco Residence (Malinalco) of the same author. Both of these
projects are defined by the presence of archaeological remains and historical architecture.
However, many projects have looked into industrial spaces (which are often undervalued),
now obsolete, and opt for a transformation of these, emphasizing the original context as a
resource to reconvert them in new landscapes, such as The Museum of Steel (Monterrey,
Nueva León) by James A. Lord and also The Garden Nature of the Bicentennial Park
(Mexico City) by Mario Eduardo Schjentan. Without forgetting the inheritance, there is a
tendency that relates to new more ecologically sustainable models, leaving behind the
more exotic vegetation and re introducing native species that at the same time rescue the
original Mexican landscape, as show projects like La puerta de la creación (Monterrey) by
Rene Bihan, The archaeological landscape of friendship route (Mexico City) by Pedro
Camarena, and The Garden nature of the bicentennial park.
As we mentioned at the beginning, starting with the first sketch there is a desire to get the
society involved in order to trigger an appropriation of these spaces by the community.
Architects Julio Gaeta and Luby Springall apply this strategy in their projects, for instance
in Cuernavaca Railway Line Park (Mexico City) or Memorial to the victims of violence
(Mexico City). On a different scale Alin V.Wallach and Rozana Montiel Saucedo in
Building common-unit (Mexico City) transformed a communal space together with the
On the other hand, still retaining the presence of the community, there are a set of projects
that establish continuities between zones at an urban scale. In other words, there is an
integration of residual zones that have remained isolated from the city where the goal is
precisely this: to build it. For example, in the Cuernavaca Railway Line Park mentioned
before, the urban scale linear forest sets a multi-scalar public space that binds the system
of urban spaces of the city. Different, but in the same manner of establishing a connection
with the surrounding city and achieving dynamic and catalytic spaces, we find the
Masterplan Center Orient Montada (Ciutat de México) project by Pere Joan Ravetllat and
Carme Ribas. This urban fabric also suggests a mix of uses to generate new centralities,
like for instance the Plan in San Luis (San Luis Potosí) by Eduardo Schjetnan, or
Monterrey Technological Plan, urban regeneration plan (Monterrey) of Dennis Pieprz
where a transformation of a university area is outlined towards a more integrated
community in the district.
Finally, focusing on the issue of public administration, we could take a look at the projects
of the Technological Institute Higher Studies of Monterrey (Campus Guadalajara).
Although these projects are located in Costa Rica, traits can be found that relate to the
Mexican administration’s way of handling urbanism. This project deals with a hotel
complex linked to nature. This is to ensure maintaining the existing vegetation (the local
landscape prevails over the other pre-existing ones; the native flora is the dominant one)
and also the concept of reforestation in lands affected by infestation is considered. In
relation to the cultural landscape, there is a commitment to local construction techniques.
The craftsmanship and the traditions are references but without leaving aside the use of
renewable and sustainable materials that take care of the environment.
The inputs are more or less clear, although they don’t define the end result, they expose
the mechanisms to avoid the loss of socially recognized values regarding landscape. The
need to define these landscapes is obvious, and if we analyse the projects of the Biennial,
one can see the clear intention to continue with these guidelines for the future and thanks
to entities such as CONACULTA (National Council for Culture and the Arts) and
SEMARNAT (Secretary of environment and natural resources) that ensure these initiatives
are fully integrated. The Mexican landscape, considered in all its aspects, is lucky to be
protected, but now the ball is in the court of architects, landscapers, urban planners and,
above all, society which is gradually becoming aware of the relationship between territory
and community, and how landscape is something visible that is directly related to concepts
such as quality of life, identity of the place…