Residential density: 5,800 people per km2
(London 4,500 people per km2)

Located on a high plateau, with few geographic boundaries to curb its growth, Mexico City has developed as a low-rise, sprawling city; the central Federal District’s residential density is about 5,800 people per km2, slightly higher than the relatively low density of London. But it has some denser areas: wealthier parts in the south, east and the historic centre, as well as less affluent areas such the urbanised north.

The suburban sprawl continues to develop, fuelled by low-cost mortgages, cheap petrol and a lax regulatory framework. The municipal government has tried to re-shape the fragmented city by luring residents back into the historic centre, whose population had decreased by 40% between 1970 and 1995. But certain programmes intended to bring more people into the city centre have had the unanticipated effect of pricing out some residents, forcing them into the surrounding State of Mexico.

Project: Brazil 44

The current regeneration of Mexico City’s historic centre involves revitalising historic structures as well as creating and upgrading commercial buildings and infrastructure. Brazil 44 is part of a federal government initiative in partnership with the Junta de Andalucia of Spain, aimed at improving housing conditions for the poor in the historic centre. The project’s name is taken from the address of an existing dwelling, which is being revitalized to include five housing areas with retail space on the ground floor. Its aim is to provide public space for communal living desperately needed by Mexico City’s many inhabitants.

Architect: Javier Sanchez/ Higuera + Sanchez
Client: Insituto Nacional de la Vivienda
Expected construction: 2007

Project: El Faro de Oriente

El Faro (La Fábrica de Artes y Oficios) de Oriente, or ‘lighthouse of the east’ is a community cultural centre in the borough of Ixtapalapa, on the eastern edges of Mexico City. Ixtapalapa is one of the city’s most populated and violent zones, with inadequate amenities and poor urban infrastructure. The building was originally designed as government offices, but local officials re-appropriated it as a community arts centre, with studios, galleries, libraries and performance space. The project involves extending the public space surrounding the building to create an outdoor amphitheatre for large-scale performances, gatherings and activities, to provide a cultural oasis in this industrial desert environment.

Architect: alberto Kalach/Taller de Arquitectura X
Client: El Fábrica de Artes y Oficios
Completion: 2000