San Jacinto Square

Mexico City / Mexico / 2018

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1 Love 236 Visits Published

Plaza San Jacinto–located in the heart of San Angel, Mexico City–has been for centuries one of the most relevant commercial and social spaces in the area. Recently, Architect Alejandro de la Vega Zulueta created and developed a renovation and vindication project for the public square.


            As with any other project involving a historical facility, its point of departure was the archives; this research process was supported by the INAH [National Institute of Anthropology and History], Mexico's top authority in the investigation and preservation of cultural heritage. Documents and plans indicate that the original design of the square dates back to the 16th century, in the then neighborhood of Tenanitla (meaning 'next to the stone wall' in Nahuatl). Architecturally, its elements were replaced with the passage of time; as a consequence, the only original element of the plaza that remains is the layout. The rest of its components dated from the 20th century, for example: its ground–consisted of different types of concrete and pervious concrete floors and of different flagstones–and fountains, which were brought from different public spaces in the city.


            Without ignoring its past–the layout–and role as artistic, commercial, and social venue in San Angel, this interesting pastiche allowed the architect to create an entirely new code that could be applied to a public space in Mexico City today. The new look for the Plaza San Jacinto is guided by the following concepts: the aesthetic and design unification, the artistic process, and the purpose of public spaces.


            Presently, the square no longer includes steps or slopes that block universal access; the appearance of the floor was also homogenized by only using textured volcanic cobblestones (recinto). Furthermore, Engineer Jorge Zinser was in charge of introducing a new lighting system that covers the whole public square, without it becoming invasive, in order to make the space safe and accessible during the night.


            One of the main appeals of the plaza is its handcrafts and artist market; for this reason, it was important to give prominence to artistic and manual processes. Such is the case for the design of the new fences that protect the green areas; it started from the architect's research on shapes applied to sculpture. Once he created the pattern, were cut with laser and nitrogen and then welded by robots to ensure precision and quality in the work; afterwards, the pieces were painted with electrostatic paint, guaranteeing its durability. Some of the manual processes employed are the technique to create the texture of the cobblestones in the entire square–which was done by hacking a machete against the stone–and to cut its shapes. In addition, chinked stones were embedded by hand–a technique called rajueleado–to compensate for the changes in angles and settings of the volcanic cobblestone.


            Although these two aspects strengthen the renovation project, its respect to the public nature of a square is what gives it its great value. Throughout history, public squares are the places where the history and customs of communities are experienced and written. Today, we can see the workers who come everyday to offer their services in the sidewalk next to Calle Madero and the sellers who install their stands on the weekends; a project that did not include them would make no sense. This inclusion was also in mind when designing the universal access ramps and a cobblestone setting that indicates the change of areas in the square and the proximity to the border of the sidewalk for blind users.


            The design, processes, and materials were prioritized in order to built the best version of the Plaza San Jacinto, giving the user–whether it is an office worker eating lunch on a bench or a homeless person coming to sleep–the opportunity to enjoy it at any time.

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    Plaza San Jacinto–located in the heart of San Angel, Mexico City–has been for centuries one of the most relevant commercial and social spaces in the area. Recently, Architect Alejandro de la Vega Zulueta created and developed a renovation and vindication project for the public square.             As with any other project involving a historical facility, its point of departure was the archives; this research process was...

    Project details
    • Year 2018
    • Work started in 2016
    • Work finished in 2018
    • Client Alvaro Obregon Municipal government
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Parks, Public Gardens / Public Squares / Urban Furniture / Restoration of old town centres / Lighting Design / Monuments / Furniture design
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