News Home & Design Architects Overhaul Outdated Modernist Gem of a Mexico City Apartment Inspired by modernist ideals, this compact apartment was in sore need of an update. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published October 21, 2021 04:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Ariadna Polo Garfias Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive The influence of Swiss-French architect, designer, and urbanist Le Corbusier is wide-ranging, making his mark with seminal works of modernist architecture like Villa Savoye, but also with ambitious urban planning schemes like his Ville Radieuse, which re-envisioned the city as a well-organized series of high-rise housing blocks, incorporating abundant green spaces on the ground level. Though never realized fully, the Ville Radieuse concept was an influential (yet also controversial) utopian ideal, making its mark on other architects and urban planners in other cities and countries. In Mexico City, architects and urban planners Mario Pani Darqui, Bernardo Quintana, and Salvador Ortega completed the Multifamiliar Alemán (CUPA) in 1949, one of Mexico's first examples of experimental social housing, based on some of the ideas of the Ville Radieuse. Though originally built to address a shortage of affordable housing at the time, the complex is still now in use, with architects Pavel Escobedo and Andres Solíz of Escobedo Solíz recently completing a renovation of one of the units for a family of four—a couple and their two children who had already been living in the apartment for 15 years. Ariadna Polo Garfias The updated scheme focused on creating more storage space and privacy in the family's two-level, 592-square-foot (55-square-meter) apartment, in addition to upgrading the floors, surfaces, doors, and windows. As the architects explain, implementing the updated scheme was made easier by the superblock's original design: "The buildings have a robust and modular structural system of concrete beams and columns that avoid structural walls and allow a lot of flexibility to reconfigure the dwellings to the interior. [..] On the ground floor there are services, shops and equipment for the inhabitants of the complex." The upper level of the flat—called an "access level"—contains the new layout for the kitchen and dining area. Measuring 129 square feet (12 square meters), this zone has been redone by swapping out the tired, dark linoleum with white terrazzo. Old plaster was purposely removed from the ceiling to reveal the original concrete formwork. Wood was used throughout the new design as a way to soften the hard feel of the concrete. Ariadna Polo Garfias The architects decided to also prioritize bringing more light into the apartment by replacing some solid walls with glass blocks. They say: "By increasing the floor area on the access level, we were able to grow and build a new dining room, relocate the new kitchen, and generate a laundry room and bike storage behind the new kitchen." Ariadna Polo Garfias The lower level measures 462 square feet (43 square meters), and previously was laid out as an open room with three beds, a television, and a couch, with the only enclosed rooms being the bathroom and laundry room. To boost privacy, the layout of the lower floor was completely overhauled. The designers say that they revamped the staircase so that this wasted space has now become a new area for watching television: "Our proposal intervenes the original wooden staircase by making it steeper and shorter to gain area in the access level and gain height in the dead space below the staircase." Ariadna Polo Garfias The formerly open space has been partitioned off to create private bedrooms for the children and the couple. Ariadna Polo Garfias A bunkbed and built-in furniture have been installed to create a more personalized touch in the children's room. Ariadna Polo Garfias Each child has their own bed, and their own small study area. In describing the custom-built furniture, the architects note that: "This carpentry element respects the different heights of the concrete beams, allowing the beams to pass freely over the top in order to have more light in the TV room and embrace the structural continuity of the concrete beams." On the other side of the wall, we have the parents' room. Ariadna Polo Garfias The same theme of increased natural lighting and privacy carries over into the parents' room, which has much of the same built-in wooden elements. Ariadna Polo Garfias Some of the designs of these pared-down wooden components are based on the ideas of Mexico-based Cuban designer Clara Porset, who came up with an interior design proposal for the project back in 1947. It's a simple and effective revamp of what would have been an old and outdated layout that may have made sense in the idealized, modernist vision of the early decades of the twentieth century. But we are almost a hundred years past the first inklings of that vision. Now, more often than not, the greenest buildings are the ones that are still standing, and as older buildings in big cities around the world continue to age, it makes sense for architects and urban planners to find innovative ways to restore and revive such buildings and to readapt that past vision into something new, rather than to tear them down. See more at Escobedo Solíz and on Instagram.