Tecnoparque, Mexico DF – Mexico
A large relaxing business area with sustainable water use systems
By Jimena Martignoni
Tecnoparque is a high-technology office campus located in the Azcapotzalco District, in the northwestern area of Mexico City. The first construction phase was completed in 2005, a second one in 2007 and a third one at the beginning of 2011. This area is currently characterized by the incorporation of low cost housing, technological institutes and a major university campus, all of which is part of a larger local plan, with the objective of eradicating the heavy and light industry-based economy and, especially decreasing the mass departure and consequent loss of job posts.
The site itself, of approximately 15 hectares, was a steel production-related plant that was closed down and sold, in 2000, to a group of private developers specialized in office buildings. They negotiated the redevelopment of the site with the City and the project was approved with the condition to create permanent jobs in the tertiary sector and to use limited amounts of water from the city’s lines.
The campus project proposes six office buildings - each one of 6500 m2 - parking space for 3500 cars, a small shopping area and restaurants for employees; the common open spaces include three lakes with their gardens and pedestrian ways, on-grade parking and, additionally, the design of the central yards of each one of the buildings with harmonized masses of shrubs and specially designed outdoor furniture. At present, five office buildings and the three proposed lakes and gardens are completely finished; in addition, the site incorporated a service center and a commercial mall which are opened for the site’s users as well as to public at large, thus becoming a new people-attracting urban piece. The mall, that covers almost two hectares, offers a diverse range of stores, a branch of the Government´s Taxes Department, a kinder and a garden, designed as an intimate and manicured spot with flowers beds and curvilinear shaped concrete benches. The land where it was built the mall is public but it is maintained by Tecnoparque, who´s also in charge of maintaining the garden.
Because water supply and efficient consumption is a top environmental issue in Mexico City, this project’s overall water management turned into one of the defining items of the landscape architecture Master Plan and site construction. Water not only appears as a main visual element of this office campus but as a highly relevant functional one that is coherent with the sustainable approach with which all new developments have to be thought out in this city, and probably should in any other of the planet.
In this case, there are two primary water management systems whose main objective is to maximize the reutilization of water within the site: the “black waters treatment and reuse system” and the “storm water collecting system”.
The first one is based on the treatment of the restrooms water on site. The water is stored in cisterns placed underground and then, once recycled, serves to the irrigation of gardens and green areas. The second one is based on rain water collection from roofs of buildings and plazas. In parking areas, rain water is retained and filtered with lava rock to irrigate trees and grass pavers, and excess water from roads is sent directly to city drainage.
But the water management plan here goes far and beyond and also presents an innovative system which conducts water back to the city aquifer. The rain water is first stored in some large underground retention cells and then sent to deep wells of approximately 80 meters deep (thus reaching the deepest layers of ground) and whose bottom section is perforated to allow water to come out. In this manner, the city aquifer is constantly recharged.
The landscape layout is intimately connected with the architectural one. Buildings and gardens alternate, shaping a chest-like grid whose key module is a 100 x 100 meter figure; this specific size and grid arrangement reminds of the original Spanish city settlements and, in addition, creates a simple, easy-to-walk space.
This last situation was an explicit decision of the designers who wanted to allow an easy direction-finding within the campus. The grid pattern establishes clear pedestrian axis and allows for users to walk under the porticoes and overhangs of buildings. The identity and sense of place achieved with this model and the geometrical footway, which frames the buildings, is completed with the different composition of every one of the three gardens and lakes. One is the “civic” and entry garden, another is the “central” and natural garden and the third is the “still” garden; each garden providing eating facilities, seating areas and terraces and therefore creating opportunities to rest, talk, and meet other people.
The civic garden was the first one to be completed (2005) because it’s the closest to the main vehicular and pedestrian entrances and consequently has a more institutional image. Strongly defined with a geometrical design approach, this garden is perceived as a very inviting, open area where the presence of water is also major.
The water surface occupies more than half of the garden area and the rest is a lawn-covered plane only interrupted by a couple of pines clusters. A narrow pedestrian path crosses the entire aquatic surface, as if floating over it, and then crosses over the green one to finally reach the paved paths that connect with the pedestrian circuit.
Two of the corners of the aquatic area, diagonally opposite to each other, create two different focal points: a functional one which is shaped as a floating semi-roofed deck or café terrace and a visual one modeled as a green square-like figure, built of papyrus, which frames a set of spray jets. The first one becomes a people-gathering space, with tables and chairs served by a kiosk and fast-food booth and with relaxing vistas towards the water, while the second turns into a nature-related element signed by the permanent ascending mist and the organic soft lines of the aquatic plants: a fine balance between hardscape and greenery or man and nature and, from a different perspective, between a watching-place and a place to be watched.
At one of the sides of the water plane, next to the floating deck, a group of irregularly placed benches provide another spot for relaxation. Ergonomically designed as a one piece object, these wooden benches are randomly positioned to generate different social situations: some face the water, others face the pathway and others face one another.
In this garden it’s also placed a metallic sculpture modeled as an inverted cone, approximately 75 feet-high, which stands as the site’s icon. The verticality of this element deeply contrasts with the predominance of horizontal lines that delineate every one of the buildings and, accordingly, helps picturing this piece as a focal and reference point.
The second garden (2007) can be made out from the first one, assuring the visual and spatial connection that responds to the aforementioned leading concept of easy place-identification and direction-finding; the general grid-patterned pathway, on the other hand, connects also the two patches. However, this garden has a decidedly organic layout which validates the idea of nature with which it was created. Its central location within the campus also reinforces the relevance of a natural area that acts as a “decontaminating” green lung and which users enjoy by walking around or sitting at the semi-roofed café located here.
This central garden presents an irregular shaped lake whose curved edges are framed by widespread groups of native herbaceous plants. Acting as a main focal arrangement, a large group of orange, yellow and red Cannas indicas (or Indian shot) produce a fantastic eye-catching effect and provide the perfect spot for visual recreation and relaxation. The completing planting is primarily based on other extensive punctual groups, such as the soft stylized papyrus, which contrast with other horizontal lawn planes that follow the curved paths of this place.
The third and last garden (2011) appears as a homogeneous and monochromatic area massively planted with agapanthus, which creates a “sotobosque” level, and a green higher canopy created by a cluster of jacaranda trees. This purple bluish mass is only interrupted by a zigzag-shaped main path that, at certain spots, opens up to generate small resting decks furnished with benches. The lake itself, which represents a third rain water collecting cistern in the site, creates a natural border between this planted area and the services area, which provides a restaurant. As in the other two gardens, a set of spray jets is used for the water recirculation and aeration, while creating an attractive and dynamic picture.
Every one of the gardens offers either a café or a restaurant or both. The spaces between buildings are then perceived almost as “urban streets” (only much quieter and cleaner!) and the site becomes a city reflecting space.
The rest of the open spaces are occupied by the parking areas, all of which are planted with trees whose planting pattern echoes that of the site’s general grid layout. In order to increase the rainwater absorbing surfaces, parts of the pavement are built as a net that alternates concrete and lawn. All in all, these areas complete the landscape plan and the green network that supports the complex.
Another relevant concern of the Master Plan was to provide comfort and safety through connections with the transit lines and metro subway system, including the effort to design and transform surrounding detrimental urban environments such as the adjacent underpass bridge. The place to which pedestrians arrive at, after crossing this bridge that connects with public transportation stops on the adjoining main road, is another neatly landscaped area that alternate paved and planted strips and which is visually separated from the street with a curvilinear metallic wall.
Tecnoparque becomes an environmentally-friendly large business area in a city where environmental issues have to be on top of the list. This positive, hopefully lasting, conceptual design aspect of the project adds up to the knowledgeable decision of providing the site with highly attractive green areas where working people can find respite, recreation and, let’s face it, a good reason – other than responsibility - to go back to work the next day.
Award: IX (9) Biennale of Mexican Architecture in the Landscape Architecture Category
Client: Inmuebles Francia
Landscape Architects: GDU - Grupo de Diseño Urbano
Architects: G+A Architects
Size: 15 hectares
Date of completion: First Phase 2005, Second Phase 2007, Third Phase 2011