In the midst of the Mayan calendar predictions, prophecies came and went and on 12-12-12 in New York, the Mexican architect Fernando Romero released his book You Are The Context at the Guggenheim Museum. The launch was a celebration of what comes next, a young career full of potential and a designer with the means to create change in and out of Mexico.
Romero and his firm FR-EE published the book as a catalog of architecture projects erected and for consideration around the world. In an email he writes, "It is a manifesto of today's context for designers." The book reads like an architecture self-help guide: a serious investigation of trending topics in building and social design: museums, mixed-use, responsible vertical, cities, convention centers, bridges, etc.
The book starts "Since the mid-1960s, as a reaction against the formalism and functionalism of Modernism, the word context has seen a common and frequently used term in architectural discourse." Romero and FR-EE are pushing an agenda with regards to careful attention to the key elements of site, culture, time and society. These are considerations for a future architecture.
You Are The Context is self-published and reads as part calling card/part industry resource. FR-EE hopes to ignite conversations around key issues, shed light on the positive developments in Mexico, and also to bid for some US territory or at least make it's voice more laudable.
Romero won international acclaim for designing Museo Soumaya in 2011, a sequined hourglass of a museum housing Carlos Slim Helú's prestigious art collection in Mexico City. Romero is prone to organic shapes and experimental forms. His mentors include Enric Miralles, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas.
You Are the Context has that Koolhaas approach to solving problems by posing solutions like Koolhaas' early publications: the graphic rich book S,M,L, XL investigated cities and architecture through essays and meditations or like his pastiche Content magazine. Romero's Context uses a variety of voices and forms of information to pose important social design questions, riffing in and out of professional rigor and interesting factual data. The book ends with the artist Pedro Reyes writing an essay on place, "Professionals see architecture...People are looking for places-places to be, places that make us feel good, just as one finds comfort in a good song or good movie. "
Romero is using his projects in China and Mexico to discuss real global issues with what he calls "innovative programmatic solutions." The book shows his investment in the invisible details and contextualizing space. He says, "Mexico is in the beginning of a new era. Now we are ready to develop the base for the pyramid... And for designers this will be a challenging time."
Perhaps the most critical message of in the book is an urging from the writer/editor, Julia van den Hout, "How do designers use their own past experiences as advantages in future projects?" It's an important question to consider within the book itself and for the architects and cities we live in. What is our context?