Rozana Montiel is a prolific architect, working between the scales of city and object, in design and research.
Across her broad scope of projects, she consistently applies a social and contextual framework to each work. The process of her studio relies on engaging with the local population and a genuine understanding of place — viewing the site in geographical, social and political terms.
We seek our content in our context… we work with the community and not only for it.
— Rozana Montiel
Recently awarded the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture at the Women in Architecture Awards, she was praised (along with fellow Mexican architect Gabriela Carrillo), for excellence in design while committing to a sustainable and democratic process with the users of her projects. The jury described Montiel’s work as ‘sensitive engagements with communities that activate simple architectural forms’.
One such project is Court. Located in the suburbs of the port of Veracruz in Mexico, the intervention rehabilitates an idle basketball court as part of a broader overhaul of the 8000-dwelling social housing estate. The client’s brief was simply to provide a rooftop over the existing court to protect from heat, sun, and rain. Essentially this roof is the basis of the addition, through which Montiel found an opportunity for the elemental structure to house additional public amenities while barely increasing the budget.
The simple, shed-like form straddles the court, with a double column structure to either side. In the width of the structure, Montiel has inserted balconies, hammocks, swings, a reading room, flexible workspace and bathrooms across two levels. The enclosed, semi-enclosed and open spaces create a playful patchwork of activity within the rigid, gridded structure. Further amenities — outdoor living areas, a playground, a small skate park, and an outdoor gym — are scattered on either side of the portico.
The design takes its cue from the Greek Agora in form and function, which literally translates to ‘gathering place’ or ‘assembly’. Sitting on a raised concrete plinth, the steel colonnades and pitched galvanized roof are a kind of industrial reinterpretation of the ancient structure, which like the Agora provides space for all of society, housing inter-generational activities across education, recreation and religion.
The materials used are economic, durable and robust — a simple steel frame with concrete brick, breeze block and steel mesh balustrades defining the enclosed and semi-enclosed spaces of the court’s perimeter. Montiel plays off and takes from the surrounding built fabric, dominated by modernist concrete housing, reveling in its industrial aesthetic.
Montiel’s addition is a minimal, elegant and efficient structure. With very little, it transforms a residual space into a contemporary Agora. The roof for a basketball court has become simultaneously a library, an informal gathering space, a playground, and a workspace. Court reveals the potential social capital latent in all design; Montiel has produced a generous architecture in scarce conditions, which is more important now than ever.