Frida Escobedo at the V&A 29.05.15

Inspired by an Aztec city on a lake, the Mexican architect’s installation references the many layers of architecture that have been left in Mexico by successive civilisations and cultures

Mexican architect Frida Escobedo has designed an installation inspired by an Aztec city on a lake in the V&A’s John Madejski garden to mark the “year of Mexico in the UK”.

Titled, “You know you cannot see yourself so well as by reflection” – a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – it comprises a series of mirrored platforms, clustered around one end of the pond in the museum’s central courtyard. The varying heights reference the many layers of architecture that have been left in Mexico by successive civilisations and cultures over the centuries. Viewed from above, the arrangement resembles the grid of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, as described by the Spanish conquistadors.

The architect sought to generate a conversation about cultural identity, at a time when communications technology across vast distances has left the original purpose of such installations and pavilions – to represent a particular culture – less relevant. “Mexican cultural identity is made up of many layers,” says Escobedo, who featured on the cover of our Mexico issue last year. “This process allows history to be part of our present.

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“The construction of identity is a performative art, and something that needs to be completed in the eye of another. Seen through this lens, the pavilion aims to bring together different identities and leaves room for new representations and exchanges. The mirrored surfaces reflect the surrounding buildings and overlap two cultural landscapes. It’s a way of sparking a new discussion about how we are in ourselves, how we project ourselves and how others perceive us.”

The platforms, which will remain in place until the end of London Design Festival in September, are designed for interaction – for children and adults to sit and stand upon – and will host a series of events over the summer. “One of the main aims was that it would blend in to the surroundings, and be subtle, and the highlight would be the way people use it,” the architect says. The second aim was for the surfaces to be highly reflective, but concerns over safety meant they had to be non-slip, which left them less reflective than originally intended. But, following a packed opening weekend, Escobedo is satisfied that this is less important. “The success of the piece is that people are engaging with it.”

Read our interview with Frida Escobedo from our Mexico issue

 

Words

Debika Ray

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The construction of identity is a performative art, and something that needs to be completed in the eye of another

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