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Spotlighting Mexican Architect Tatiana Bilbao

Tatiana Bilbao Designs Through Collaboration to Create Exquisite Spaces

Architect Tatiana Bilbao Spamer
Architect Tatiana Bilbao

“What is it to be a woman in a man’s world?”

As a young architecture student, that was one of the first questions Tatiana Bilbao was asked during a lecture. At the time, she had never considered that the world wasn’t equal for men and women. That became an important lesson that would stick with her throughout her career.

Another important lesson Bilbao learned in school was that it takes collaboration between many minds to create a space that reflects the needs of those living and working in a building. Not only from the people designing the spaces but from those that will use them as well. When Bilboa opened her studio in 2004, those main principles would carry it to where it is today. 

From architects to model makers and academics, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO now has nearly 60 team members collaborating on projects throughout the world. While the majority of her plans are designed for towns and cities within her home country of Mexico, her team is also currently working on projects in the USA, Germany, and Spain.  

Her studio operates where she was born, Mexico City, where her grandfather, Tomás Bilbao Hospitalet, moved from Spain during the war in 1942. Before he became a refugee in Mexico, he was a well-known architect and political figure in Bilbao, Spain. Bilbao says she never met her grandfather, but she grew up on his and her family’s political beliefs.

From her early days in the industry, Bilbao always had a strong interest in social and affordable housing. However, she realized there was only one way architects could make a difference. “No one’s coming to knock on our studio door to ask us if we want to do housing,” she told Frame Magazine last year. “So why don’t we become active in the politics of housing?”

Affordable housing has always been an issue in Mexico. With such a fast-growing population and a lack of places to live, the country is in need of millions of homes. Bilbao knows that Mexico has a long way to go before the problem is even close to being solved, but by having conversations with politicians and developers, something can start to change. 

Los Terrenos house by Architect Tatiana Bilbao
Located in Monterrey, Mexico, Los Terrenos house is on a highland forested zone. The first level is on the ground floor with bedrooms underground. 
The Ajijic House by Tatiana Bilbao
The Ajijic House is located on Chapala Lake, Jalisco, Mexico. The summer house allows stunning views while at the same time protecting against heavy winds.

Bilbao understands that while it’s important for people to have a roof over their heads, it’s also important to create a home that inspires the people that live in them. Just because it’s affordable housing doesn’t mean it has to be designed the same for everyone. By considering people’s personal preferences, affordable housing can be a nurturing environment for its inhabitants. 

One of Bilbao’s first affordable housing designs that got major traction in the global community was her studio’s adaptable low-cost house. The idea behind the design is that it could be adapted to suit the needs of different residents and expand when needed. And with a variety of material options, they can be built to suit a variety of climates depending on where they are built.

Back in 2015, the Mexican government commissioned the Bilbao Studio’s affordable house design as part of a program created to incentivize people to buy homes by offering credit and subsidizing half the cost of the house. At just $8,000 to build the base design, there’s much to be desired about these houses. 

Housing+ social housing project designed by Architect Tatiana Bilbao
Housing + is a social housing project and the Acuña Sustainable Housing is a development of sixteen houses built to account for budgetary, climactic, and cultural differences. 

In addition to the affordability of her studio’s houses, they also look like completed houses. If you’ve ever driven through neighborhoods in Mexico, you might notice how many homes are built with flat roofs and steel bars sticking out of the walls. To many, this indicates that the house is still under construction. To many others, those houses appear to be failures. 

The project is called Housing+, and each unit starts with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living space, and a dining space. The living and dining spaces are 5 meters (16.4 feet) tall and up to five bedrooms can be added at separate stages. The best part of the design is that the home looks complete, no matter how many rooms have been added. 

In addition to affordability projects, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO designs for density, social landscape, education, domesticity, and culture projects. Among other projects in the works, Bilbao’s studio works as a consultant for Pacific Gas & Electric’s new substation project at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. The project will include community gardens and a plaza with the aim of regenerating the former military base.  


TROORA MAGAZINE | APRIL 2023
WRITTEN BY KEVIN JAMES JEFFERY
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANA HOP | RORY GARDINER | IWAN BAAN | TATIANA BILBAO ESTUDIO

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