Tijuana isn't known for its modern urban planning and well-constructed structures. In fact, it's known for the opposite. Moderate rainstorms wipe makeshift housing right off of hillsides and flood streets, and the city government often ignores the need for community space within or close to impoverished neighborhoods.
Architects Marcel Sanchez and Adriana Cuellar of the Tijuana/San Diego firm CRO Studios saw the need to revitalize the Camino Verde area of Tijuana, which was in dire need of a space for social interaction and richer cultural experiences. So they began building the Modulo Prep Library (Casa de las Ideas).
Modulo Prep Library
The library, built on a budget of just $130,000 provided by the Mexico's Social Development Secretariat, offers study areas, conference spaces, an outdoor amphitheater and areas for social interaction. As a result of its impact on the community, the Modulo Prep Library was honored with the prestigious P/A Award, or Progressive Architecture Award, from ARCHITECT Magazine.
"It was an award we honestly didn't expect," says Sanchez, who's also a professor at Barrio Logan's Woodbury School of Architecture. "We knew it had something interesting to it that we personally like because it has a social side to it that contributes to the community."
Camino Verde is one of countless areas in Tijuana that suffers from a lack of public planning and design. Sanchez and Cuellar felt it was a shame that people living there had to spend what little money they have leftover from their wages on recreation and entertainment.
"These zones were built irregularly," Sanchez says. "They weren't designed or planned. When people have access to these services it’s an investment. We think think the project provides a space to start a conversation between people on how public and social spaces lead to the betterment of society."
"One of the things we believe in about our space is how the design and its visibility can influence the behavior of people," adds Cuellar, who is also a faculty member at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design. "It's an area with a lot of vitality. It's a small thing with a big impact. You can plant a small seed and it grows and grows and transforms."
Sanchez and Cuellar, a married couple, are excited about what the award can do for other areas of Tijuana, the city's architectural infrastructure and, most importantly, its people.
"I don’t know the benefits the award will have, but it’s a matter of believing in these types of projects and what we need as architects," Sanchez says. "These type of awards can help other people. There is the opportunity to work with people that really need architect. The award and this project contributes to that."