Hopscotch Plaza (Plaza Rayuela)
The story behind this retail plaza is a rather interesting one. The clients started out with a small piece of land and went on buying their neighbors’ terrains until they ended up with an irregular shape full of “urban gaps” as we liked to call them. From the beginning of the design process we faced a lot of challenges regarding restrictions to the terrain due to multiple factors. An underground water canal, a high tension power line, and an important highway overpass, where only some of the complications the site had due to its nature.
When we placed all those restrictions on the terrain we realized that we could not project any construction on almost 70% of the total area we had. Not the best scenario when every square feet of built area would translate in important revenue for our clients. But of course, those limitations are not limitations at all, they merely helped us define the project faster and made the design and layout more interesting.
We started with square modules of standardized dimensions and began playing with them, we rotated, moved and mirrored them until we could fit them within the limits of the restrictions but also trying to use most of the area we were permitted to build on. Even that was not enough built area so we proposed a third floor; it would be the first retail plaza in the city with three levels, the clients thought it was a risky move so we added an elevator.
The floor plan reminded one of the clients of a game they played when they were kids; the hopscotch, or Rayuela, as it is called in Spanish, hence the name of the project. The layout also resulted in separate volumes so we made the space between them outdoor terraces: One for every retail lot, also a first for the city.
Following the trends of this typology of retail plaza in bigger cities, like Monterrey, the plaza was intended to have a very uniform and sleek look and overall image, no tenants where supposedly allowed to modify or alter any of the facades or outdoor terraces. The illuminated signs where to abide by certain sizes, colors, and specifications. These and other regulations where almost never followed by the tenants. They did and undid what they pleased with the facades, the colors, the signs, etc.
The result of this design improvisation and juxtaposition from different people and with no rules whatsoever was surprisingly pleasing. It is reminiscent of the Mexican “barrio” style architecture trademark. Colorful, warm, alive, and dynamic. Everyone pitches in and the different façade modifications don’t fight with each other but together create an environment that coexists naturally and is very representative of Mexican folklore.