El Sitio: A Timeless Way of Building
May 18, 19, and 20, 2023
El Sitio: A Timeless Way of Building is a three-day public event that takes as a point of departure El Sitio—an experimental social housing complex built by renowned architect Christopher Alexander in Mexicali, B.C. between 1975 and 1976. The event includes Conversations with artists, architects, urban planners, and specialists from the region and beyond discussing Alexander’s influential and ultimately controversial ideas. At the same time, Pastizal Zamudio, an artist who was born at El Sitio and has had access to their former house to carry out research since the beginning of 2022, will present a new Commission that reimagines the central courtyard of Alexander’s project. The Conversations will take place in a temporary pavilion—a Commission with local architecture offices Veintedoce and Localista, in collaboration with UABC students. In addition to architect-led visits to sites in Mexicali, the event will feature screenings of two documentaries focused on Alexander.
The concept of vernacular architecture has always been at the forefront of discussions about the built environment. The notion that the most important buildings are those that are born from the needs and desires of the people who inhabit them, and not created solely by architects, has been shared by many throughout history. The idea has recently gained renewed attention in light of concerns about homelessness and immigration housing, as well as the way social and communal spaces are conceived and inhabited.
The conversations, artist commissions, walk-throughs, and films that will be presented at the public event, El Sitio: A Timeless Way of Building, will focus on discussing alternative models of social housing, the sustainability of architecture in an increasingly urban world, and ways of life that reinvent and adapt themselves to the built and public spaces. In the dialogues, key concepts by architect Christopher Alexander will be explored, specifically, the alternative processes and theories he proposed through the Mexicali Experimental Project in El Sitio (1976) in Baja California, Mexico—where this forum will take place.
Conversations: Gina Cebey; Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman; CRO Studio: Adriana Cuellar + Marcel Sánchez; Alejandro D’Acosta; Howard Davis; A J Kim, Michael Mehaffy; Felipe Orensanz; Alejandro Peimbert; Andrea Torreblanca; Lorenia Urbalejo