Fired Up: A Garden Goes To Pots

  • Many of the pots called for thick lid whereby visitors could be seated. It was fired in a hot lime color. (Sketch Courtesy of Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura).

  • Simple elements—clay, soil and plants—were the basis of the year-long installation that would also serve as a public meeting place. (Sketch Courtesy Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura)

  • The clay vessels were fabricated at the 6-decade old Cerámica Contreras (Photo Credit: Adam Wiseman)

  • (Photo Credit: Adam Wiseman)

  • (Photo Credit: Adam Wiseman)

  • The unfired clay pots designed by Mexican firm Pedro & Juana (Photo Courtesy of Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura)

  • The layout of the stacked pots that would make the temporary Archivo Pavillion as conceived by contest winners Pedro & Juana (Sketch Courtesy of Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura).

  • (Photo Courtesy of Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura)

  • (Photo Credit: Ricardo Bernal)

  • (Photo Credit: Ricardo Bernal)

  • (Photo Credit: Ricardo Bernal)

  • (Photo Credit: Ricardo Bernal)

  • (Photo Credit: Onnlis Luque)

  • Submissions were vetted by an international jury comprising of Ambra Medda (Co-founder, Design Miami/Basel; founder, A.M.O.), Catalina Corcuera (Director, Casa Estudio Luis Barragán), Joseph Grima (Editor in chief, Domus), Miquel Adrià (Founder and editor, Arquine), Paola Antonelli (Curator, MoMA, NY), and Yvés Behar (Founder, fuseproject).

  • Andy and me enjoying a sip of mezcal atop the dozen of clay pots specially made for the winning installation by the studio Pedro & Juana.

If imitation can be absolved as flattery, then may we be forgiven for wanting to assemble our own sitting wall of clay pots in our humble back yard in Los Angeles, a 3-hour flight from the original in the back of a Modernist landmark in Mexico City.

Eight hundred hand-turned, diamond-shaped clay pots, some topped with thick lime-colored lids that serve as seats, others stuffed with unruly exotic shrubs, make up the stunning display in the lush back yard of the house by Arturo Chavéz Paz. He built the concrete citadel in 1952 at the end of a street in a corner of this sprawling metropolis that in recent decades has become down at the heels. Yet its creative residents and supporters consider it rich in other ways: there is the Paz house and across the street the residence of the late architectural icon, Luis Barragan. Also within a stone’s throw is the former home of another prominent architect, Enrique del Moral. It’s now home to the art gallery, LABOR.

LABOR and the Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura (ADA), an institution now inhabiting Casa Paz, served as co-hosts at the April 8 unveiling of this clay pot installation, the winning entry among some 400 by architects and designers from 36 countries eager to put their stamp on this inaugural initiative. ADA is dedicated to making design accessible to the community, both locally and at-large, in a nonacademic context; utilizing the vast garden at their new home became a critical part of their programming and a great way to commemorate their first year in these auspicious digs (for more on ADA, read our previous post.) So the nonprofit institution, along with Domus magazine, put out an open call last for an outdoor pavilion that could be used for public events and forum.

Entries were reviewed by an international jury composed of Design Miami/Basel co-founder Ambra Medda, Casa Estudio Luis Barragán director Catalina Corcuera, Domus editor in chief Joseph Grima, Arquine founding editor Miquel Adrià, MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, and Fuseproject founder and design rockstar Yvés Behar.

Bragging rights for the contest went to Pedro&Juana, an interdisciplinary studio based in Mexico and helmed by Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo, Gustavo Arroyo and Mecky Reuss. According to guests we mingled with during the celebration, Pedro&Juana not only blew the roof, literally, off their fellow competitors notions of a pavilion who largely submitted ideas with an overhead cover. The team also considered the setting, integrating the “structure” into the very DNA of the garden.

According to a post on the project on the Pedro&Juana site: “Clay has existed for centuries and it is here to stay, we could even call it an emergent material something that every civilization discovered on their own, and therefor has been the story teller, witness, and evidence of many lives and households. It has been part of design, since before design existed, and it has always been part of Mexican life.”

The 650 full pots and 150 half pots were fabricated by Cerámica Contreras, specifically by the hands of master potters Antonio Vargas, Armando Vargas Rodolfo Vargas. Pedro&Juana then worked with gardeners Germán Medina Piña and Gustavo Medina Piña to plant species indigenous to Mexico, including tree Aeonium, Calanchoes pumila, Spider Plants and Asparagus Ferns.

At the party, a kick off to the satellite activities of the 10th edition of the city’s art fair, Zona MACO later in the week, we enjoyed the installation along with the several other hundreds guests in attendance: seated on them at various heights; propping atop our glasses of mezcal and scarce copies of Archivo’s publication Impreso 02. A couple of deejays subjecting our collective ears to their trippy soudscapes backed into one corner, boxing themselves into the spot by surrounding the open side with their soundboards and other equipment. But mostly, the Archivo Pavilion enhanced an already enthralling space—and provided Andy and me with some much-needed inspiration for our own adventures in gardening this Spring.

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Rose Apodaca