Dec 11, 2014

Editor's Afield: Design Week Mexico

GRAY will never pass up the opportunity for a phenomenal adventure—especially a design-related one—so when we were invited to attend Design Week Mexico this past October, our editor, Rachel Gallaher, enthusiastically volunteered. Over the course of three days, Gallaher plunged into Mexico City’s design scene. Here, she reports on her discoveries.

After a few adventurous mishaps at two airports (my Spanish is rudimentary, mostly confined to ordering food or saying hello), I arrived at my Mexico City hotel at 2 am and promptly fell asleep. The next morning I walked over to the window, opened the shades and was taken aback by the view of the city, which spread out as far as I could see: a mix of architecture, avenues, and people. It took my breath away.

Design Week Mexico is a fairly young organization, established in 2009. But even at five years old, they’re bringing in the heavy hitters and programming dozens of events and exhibitions. Each year, DWM partners with a different country and brings in an all-star panel of speakers from that country. Two days of the festival are devoted to lectures and roundtables featuring these speakers. This year, the country was England, and speakers included Tom Dixon; Keith Priest of Fletcher Priest Architects; Sir John Sorrell, founder of London Design Festival; Michael George Hemus, co-founder of Plumen; textile designer Nigel Atkinson, and many more.

I happened to be in the same hotel as the British panel of speakers, and was lucky enough to spend three days bouncing around Mexico City with them. Between the galleries, shops, lectures, museums, and various events, it was a packed trip that opened my eyes to Mexico’s rich culture and modern design aesthetic. We discussed architecture while sipping espresso at the impeccably stocked Blend, explored the maze-like home of architect Luis Barragán, stood silently in front of the many iconic dresses on display at the Frida Kahlo house, and took tequila shots at a rowdy 11pm dinner.

One highlight was the Design House. A group of 20 renowned Mexican designers and architects were selected to transform different areas of a house into displays of contemporary style. Visit GRAY's site for a slideshow showcasing the work of this year’s participants.

Like all things design-related, this recap would be nothing without pictures, and there are a lot. I’ve chosen some photographic highlights from the trip that not only show the beauty of Mexico City, but the importance of importance of Design Week Mexico on not only a local, but a global scale. And me? I’m already dreaming about my next trip back.

An installation in the spacious open-air courtyard of the Kurimanzutto Art Gallery, located in the Federal District. “Escape Circuit” by Slovakian artist Román Ondak is a display of colorful birdcages left to flake and rust in the elements.

A peek at the building next door through the open courtyard of Kurimanzutto Art Gallery; a stairway lined with hanging vines leads from the courtyard to an interior space.

Editor Rachel Gallaher at an open-air café across from the Kurimanzutto Art Gallery.

Emilio Cabrero, Director General of Design Week Mexico and co-founder of the Blend Mexico, with Tom Dixon inside an interactive sculpture at LABOR Gallery. The sculpture was part of the “Join the Dots” exhibition featuring Ernesto Mallard and Pedro Reyes.

Close-up shot of the iconic Barragán staircase from the library to the music room.

Another shot of the staircase; religious iconography can be seen throughout Barragán’s house. 

Detail of another courtyard at the Barragán house.

A breathtaking table set for lunch Archivo Art Gallery with British Ambassador Duncan Taylor, Sir John Sorrell and key Mexican design advocates.

Taking in the gardens at Archivo Art Gallery with Oona Bannon & Russell Pinch of Pinch Design 

Mexican artist and designer Pedro Friedeberg designed an installation for the windows of Blend Mexico.


Some of our hosts took us to a traditional cantina, so when in Mexico...

The most exciting car in town. All I could do was stand and stare as they tried to parallel park. 

British industrial designer Matthew Hilton, Russell Pinch, Michael George Hemus, me, Oona Bannon, Andrea Cesarman (architect and co-founder of DWM) and her husband at the Design House opening night party. Image courtesy of Oona Bannon.

We visited artist Frida Kahlo's house, where they had an exhibit displaying a selection of the traditionally inspired dresses that made her a twentieth-century style icon. 

ALL IMAGES BELOW: Design Content, a street exhibit of emerging Mexican designers and professionals displayed in large shipping containers on two streets between Parque Polanco. Last three images courtesy of Design Week Mexico.

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