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Michel Rojkind

Michel Rojkind was born in Mexico City, where he studied Architecture and Urban Planning at the Universidad Iberoamericana.

In 2002 he founded Rojkind Arquitectos (2005, “Design Vanguard”), an architecture firm focusing on design, business tactics and experiential innovation exploring innovative architectural solutions, social and urban strategies that positively impact our society and the environment.

Rojkind has been a visiting professor at SCIArc in L.A., IACC in Barcelona and UPenn in Philadelphia. He has participated as juror for several international awards and competitions and has lectured in many different countries.

His lectures have been recognized globally: “Innovation” from Architectural Record Magazine, 2011; TEDx, 2010 and 3rd Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction sustainable in 2010, World Architecture Festival (WAF) in 2013, Design Indaba during 2014, PLAT 2016 & 2017 and PINC 2017.

Rojkind has gained international acclaim by being featured in numerous well-known architectural publications. In 2011 Wallpaper* Magazine named Michel as one of the 150 creatives who have influenced the world in the last 15 years. In 2010, Michel Rojkind was appointed as “Faces to Watch” by Los Angeles Times, and in 2010 was selected as “Emerging Voices” by Architectural League of New York. In 2015 he was granted by Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte from FONCA Mexico. To be selected, reinforces his approach of how digital design can reinforce crafts.

Business Magazine ProMéxico named Michel Rojkind as one of the 50 personalities in “50 Mexican Names in the Global Creative Scene”. Rojkind was mentioned as “… one of the most influential architects in the Mexican contemporary scene” by Forbes.

In 2017 he was on the list of “The 300 most influential leaders in Mexico”.

Falcon. Photo by Jaime Navarro

Q & A with Michel Rojkind

Q. First, would you give a short summary of what you’ll be speaking about at the AIA TN conference and its importance for architects?

SHARED RESPONSIBILITY / DESIGN MATTERS

A. At Rojkind Arquitectos, we believe buildings have the power to give back and transform communities. We are always working with interdisciplinary teams to be able to add value to the final result of the buildings and its integration to the community.

A shared responsibility starting from us -the architects- questioning the original program, to the client investing in the project, to the community wanting better cities. What roles do we play in today built environment?

Join the discussion on how the best architectural solutions transcend physical structure, promote societal shifts, and foster a greater sense of community.

HighPark. Photo by Jaime Navarro

Scale
Q. This year’s AIA TN conference theme is In Scale, recognizing the various scales of projects and design thinking – not just from its physical size but it’s context from the city level to international level. How do you tackle that spectrum? Are there examples in your work where a project required you to zoom out to a city/national/ international level in order to better detail, say something as small as a door handle.

A. Yes, it’s very important to recognize the various scales of the project and its role in the city. Also the scales of intimacy that each project has, and its relation to the city. We will show some examples of our work in those various scales.

Mercado Roma. Photo by Jamie Navarro

Q. How do you assess the dynamics and identity of a place and its effect on your design approach?

A. We talk a lot about ͞digital design / Local fabrication͟ we look for the best craftsmen and their strengths to collaborate and have a growing, learning experience with each project. If I understand the local strengths in terms of skills and crafts I can have feedback back and forth to have the best end result.

Everywhere we travel we do enough research to help us understand the best way to approach a project.

Q. For example, you understand the region and culture of Mexico City very well and your design approach seems to address its unique identity. How does that affect your thinking when you work in other cities?

A. Like in mentioned above, it becomes a ͞Fresh eyes͟ approach. How can I go deep into a new community to see their strengths and how to collaborate? This is why we customize teams for each project; Anthropologists, Urban planners, economists, landscape designers, sound designers, etc…. Once we figure out what we need then we invite them to a pre-contract phase. This is the only way to obtain the best results possible that talks more about social reconstruction.

Cinteca. Photo by Jaime Navarro

Q. How do you cultivate innovation in your firm?

A. We have cross-pollination think tanks͟ all the time. This helps us maintain very innovative and on top of culture. We thrive on learning more from different fields to see the best way to deliver design. Also being curious about society and its rapid changes. So whenever I travel, I seek experts in different fields to tour me around.

We now have an agency called ͞CulTent͟ that works as a design consultant for most of our clients.

Q. Do you have other interests outside of design that contribute to your work?

A. Yes, I’m a runner and that has influenced my work greatly. Starting from running in cities and
understanding these different scales, orientation and relationships between objects and humans.

It also helps me clear my mind, to have more sense of awareness that triggers my design thinking in general.

Q. For example, I read you were a drummer for a band. Does that contribute to your work in any way?

A. Any other creative work helps trigger the design thinking in various ways. Drumming just gave me a way of disconnecting my mind from architecture so whenever I would come back to design I would have a fresh approach. When I was working in the music industry I had a lot of exposure to graphic designers that worked on our record covers and also filmmakers that helped us with our music videos. Those conversations stuck with me over the years so now when we are doing architecture or design think tanks I encourage this interdisciplinary approach to see what the best result of a project could be. What is the correct question to start working with.

Q. Significant moments in your career. Often we earn awards and accolades that are significant from a professional level but do you have other moments or achievements that you personally find significant and more valuable?

Significant moments in our firm have been when we start getting clients that want more than just the architecture. When they come to us because they want to do something meaningful, as the case of Foro Boca.

Of course awards are always an honor, but we are very interested in the afterlife of the buildings, and the way we reconnect to the community. We believe that architecture is not enough anymore. We have to find ways to reconnect back to the cities in terms of programing and activating the spaces. How can we serve as platforms for other things to happen? How can we learn from Society through our built spaces?

Foro Boca. Photo by Paul Rivera

Q. Advice for young architects – any lessons learned you would find useful for the new design minds out there?

Always be curious and open to culture in general, this helps you stay ahead. The more you understand how things are changing you’ll be better at designing these future spaces for new societies instead of repeating the programmatic controlled spaces over and over.