LIGA Space for Architecture is an independent initiative founded in Mexico City in 2011 that promotes contemporary Latin American architecture through expositions, publications, events, conferences, and workshops. This initiative has rapidly evolved into a platform and a space for reflection on architecture as a discursive practice. Carlos Bedoya, Ruth Estévez, Wonne Ickx, Víctor Jaime, and Abel Perles seek to generate an archive of the offices of young creators from the region, recognizing the characteristics of architecture in Latin America without dwelling on styles or failing into generalizations. LIGA tests new methodologies for using theory and factual tools to respond to the context in which we live. LIGA is part of a research project led by PRODUCTORA, who we featured in the Documents section of NESS 3.
In early April 2020, Guadalupe Tagliabue was in Mexico. Staying longer than expected due to coronavirus and the quarantine situation, she profited from her visit by reinforcing some conversations that started before she was there. PRODUCTORA, conveniently based in Mexico City, was easily on the list to visit during her architectural holiday trip. The exhibition space connects to Guadalupe’s interests and the way her architectural and cultural formation come together. In this interview by Guadalupe, LIGA members explore their initial idea, their concerns for welcoming different publics, their social ways of relating to the city, and even future possibilities of changing exhibition forms as the world keeps moving unexpectedly.
Ph. Courtesy LIGA
In current discussions on art, there seems to be a redefinition of art practice, where, through an interdisciplinary investigation, the result is to rethink the role of traditional institutions and programs, opening new spaces and exploiting new possibilities for intervention. LIGA articulates projects beyond the traditional: for example, new forms of the unconventional and uncomfortable relations between art and architecture as well as the importance of the diffusion of Latin American culture.
How did the idea of taking architecture towards a cultural project arise, transcending from the traditional idea of construction? Could architecture be considered as a way of making art?
I think that our activity today has its own elements, which it sometimes shares with the art world, but I understand them as two activities with their particularities. However, I think that sometimes the two professions can coincide through interests.
We believe that architecture not only thrives on construction, but also that it thrives on critical thinking, dialogue, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge. LIGA therefore arises from the need to generate a platform where it is possible to reflect on architecture. We decided to focus on emerging Latin American architecture since, at the time it was born, there were no such spaces.
Did you rely on PRODUCTORA’s trajectory to introduce LIGA into an architectural ambience?
We feel that all the things we do, both personally and collectively (with LIGA or PRODUCTORA), are mixed and interrelated in a continuous and organic way. It is difficult to analyze and break down the reciprocal supportive relation that exists between what we write, the courses we prepare, the work we do at LIGA and at PRODUCTORA, family life, the trips we do, and the friendships we have. In the end, all these aspects stimulate each other. Surely one could say that we use a certain prestige and recognition that we receive for our work built in PRODUCTORA to convince architects to participate in LIGA…There’s no doubt about it. But at the same time, the constant exchange with our colleagues, and the relationships that we have established through LIGA, have also generated possibilities and learning for PRODUCTORA.
What are the investigations that appear today, surely with some variations, that remain from LIGA’s beginnings? Could you distinguish a series of themes or concepts that are constant paths in your research?
It was very interesting to me to explore and understand the architectural currents that are specifically from Latin America. In other words, I have always been interested in discovering how the architecture that is produced in the region (and therefore, the exhibitions we do at LIGA), differs from what is being generated in the rest of the world. Sometimes this is in danger of causing a vision that is too regionalist and specific. But we are always looking for a continuous balance between global topics and local practices and methodologies. I’m personally very interested in local schools that have evolved from generation to generation (a slow process) that have created a certain local culture. I see it for example in Paulista Architecture in Brazil, in Rosario, Argentina with Rafael Iglesias’ experiments with brick, and in Paraguay led by Solano Benítez and José Cubilla.
If you force these architects or offices out of their comfort zone and challenge them with more explorative exhibition formats, sometimes genuinely innovative things come up. The exhibition we currently have with the Sao Paola Terra e Tuma Office is a great example.
How do you, as cultural producers, develop new communication instruments to involve varied audiences?
Certain artistic practices provoke unexpected transformations in social encounters. Do you consider that curatorial initiatives and architecture projects have the scope to stimulate citizens and their cultural participation?
I think we have to be extremely ambitious but also pragmatically realistic. We are a very small space, and we have to understand (and accept) that our platform is aimed at a specialized audience. Even so, I believe that there is always a desire to expand and diversify our audience through our public programs, events, and activities. We do many collaborations with other institutions, often from the art world, and organize activities such as film presentations or workshops. These initiatives always bring us closer to diverse audiences.
We recently had the exhibition with Panósmico, a multi-disciplinary project that researches one of the few remaining open ‘rivers’ in Mexico City. The exhibition was the winning proposal of our second open call. Due to the very specific topic and in close collaboration with Panósmico, we organized workshops, visited the site, and presented documentaries. It was very enriching, and we have been able to approach a new problematic, and therefore work with new audiences.
Many years ago, we organized, in collaboration with the Museo Experimental El Eco, an ‘interlude.’ We invited architects from different generations to draw together exquisite corpses. We managed to have a varied audience, from students and children to renowned architects, and we also managed to produce something together. It was a very pleasant experience with surprising results.
Interludio Workshop, 2012. Ph. Courtesy LIGA.
How do you see architecture exhibitions in the coming years when thinking of LIGA?
From the beginning, LIGA proposed a particular way of exhibiting architecture, avoiding the typical exhibitions of drawings, photos, and models of an architect’s work. From the first exhibition we invited them to think each exhibition as an opportunity to reflect on their professional or personal concerns. This generated LIGA’s identity as a premise that stimulated new ways to talk about architecture.
Given the new context of social distancing, everything can change: things turn more virtual. It is hard to imagine it all today, but new scenarios and ways of representing ideas can appear in the way.
Will this global, critical situation be the opportunity to think about new spaces and exhibition formats?
LIGA functions as place for physical exhibitions with a public program. It functions as an architecture manager through the organization of events and competitions. It is a platform for disseminating ideas, and we will try to keep consolidating this.
On the other hand, current global technological development is motivating us to rethink LIGA’s content, even the way projects are displayed. We see the current situation, the new problems and technologies, as opportunities to consolidate what we have done so far, but also as an opportunity to expand our physical space through virtual space. Due to these devices, more and more people can see content related to LIGA, increasing our relations with people and institutions from longer distances. This might expand dialogues and it also generates new knowledge without the need of sharing physical space.
Ph. Courtesy LIGA
Ph. Courtesy LIGA
LOCATION: Mexico City, Mexico / EXECUTIVE AND CURATORIAL DIRECTOR: Ruth Estévez, Carlos Bedoya, Wonne Ickx, Víctor Jaime, Abel Perles / GENERAL COORDINATOR: Adriana Maurer / PHOTOS: Courtesy LIGA
Find out more at www.liga-df.com/en/