Departamento del Distrito

Departamento del Distrito is a Mexico City-based design practice founded in 2017 by Francisco Quiñones and Nathan Friedman. Their work lies at the intersection of politics, identity, and the built environment. In addition to architecture, their practice engages archival research, writing, and speculative work. Recent projects have been supported by the Graham Foundation, the Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, and the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA).

Francisco Quiñones is a practicing architect in Mexico City and adjunct professor of architecture at Universidad Iberoamericana. He is co-editor of En-Medio, a free publication series supported by FONCA. His research on the evolution of mid-century modernism in Mexico was recently published in Columbia University’s Avery Review. Francisco has previously worked for FR-EE and MYT Diseño on the Soumaya Museum; he collaborated with Dear Architects. He holds an MArch II from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a BArch from Universidad Anáhuac.

Nathan Friedman is a practicing architect in Mexico City and a 2021-23 Wortham Fellow at the Rice University School of Architecture. His research on the nineteenth century constitution and upkeep of the US-Mexico border was recently presented through the exhibition Attending Limits at the WUHO Gallery, Los Angeles and the Bibliowicz Family Gallery, Cornell University with support from the Graham Foundation. Friedman is a former editor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Thresholds and has previously worked for Eisenman Architects, SMAQ Berlin, and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam. He holds an MS from the department of History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art at MIT and a BArch from Cornell University.
Courtesy of Departamento del Distrito. Adriana Hamui

Miracles, Now

Venue: Graham Foundation

Miracles, Now seeks opportunities of recovery and reinvention within the remains of urban and architectural projects constructed during the so-called Milagro Mexicano or “Mexican Miracle.” This exceptional period of sustained economic growth between the 1940s and 1970s spurred the formation of Mexico’s modern identity, one specifically produced and marketed for a global audience. Visionary as it was, the social and political limits of this centralized effort have been laid bare by the government mismanagement, privatization, and environmental disregard that have come to define urban development trends in the nation’s capital over the past four decades. As hundreds of abandoned, damaged, and at-risk projects from this era currently stand in question throughout Mexico City, an opportunity for the reassessment of national history and contemporary identity has emerged. Conceived as a four-month experiment in speculative preservation, Miracles, Now fosters an explicitly bottom-up approach towards collective vision and the city. The legacy of Mexico’s twentieth-century development serves as a starting point from which future scenarios for the built environment are generated.

This installation provides an overview of the Milagro Mexicano and its material products, with specific case studies providing the main content on display. Each case study provides a unique angle on the contemporary state of modernist-era preservation in Mexico City and is presented through a variety of media—including text, found objects, images, drawings, and video. The investigation is motivated by a base set of questions regarding cultural patrimony of the built environment and the future of our cities: When buildings fall—literally (by planned demolition, structural failure) or ideologically (through abandonment, neglect, social aspirations that go unfulfilled)—what is at stake for our current society? What heritage is lost, and for whom? When buildings fall, how might the city and collective identity be reclaimed, transformed, and reimagined? Who is to lead the charge?

A concurrent installation featuring the free publication series En-Medio—which approaches the topic of preservation in Mexico City through conversations with artists, activists, building owners and operators, historians, and curatorsis presented at the independent Pilsen-based Inga Bookshop. In addition to the presentation in Chicago, three public events will be held at and for select case study locations in Mexico City. The events act as fundraisers, generating much-needed resources for the upkeep and repair of buildings, and are designed to activate the sites with new, temporal interventions and speculative programs. This component aims to harness the public exposure that will accompany the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial to enact tangible and sustained change in local communities.

Miracles, Now is the product of ongoing research by Departamento del Distrito with support from the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (FONCA) and Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo.

Past Works

Mercado Libre, Museo Numismático Nacional, 2019

Casa Georgina, Real de Catorce, 2020

En-Medio Issue 2 at Metro Chabacano, Mexico City, 2017