The March/April 2018 issue of Azure includes an essay by Iker Gil about Rojkind Architectos’ Foro Boca concert hall titled “Rock Solid.” You can purchase the issue from Azure’s website.
Thanks to Azure editor Catherine Osborne. You can find the essay below.
Mexican architect Michel Rojkind’s bold seafront concert hall pumps up the volume
Boca del Río, a city south of Veracruz and a major port in Mexico, is in the midst of an urban revitalization. Home to the largest beaches in the region, the city of 138,000 is aiming to attract tourists and business travellers, luring them with a convention centre and a series of upscale hotels and commercial malls. Within this context emerges Foro Boca, a concert hall designed by Mexico City–based firm Rojkind Arquitectos (led by architect Michel Rojkind) – a studio responsible for a number of recent high-profile projects that include the remodelling of Mexico City’s national cinema centre, Cineteca Nacional.
In 2014, Miguel Ángel Yunes Márquez, then-mayor of Boca del Río, tasked Rojkind and his team to create a permanent home for the Boca del Río Philharmonic Orchestra, which Yunes Márquez had founded that same year. Yunes Márquez had already started work on the five-kilometre waterfront with the aim to improve the pedestrian experience, so he and Rojkind worked together to select a site from three possible locations, choosing one at the edge of the water, where Vicente Fox Boulevard meets the mouth of the Jamapa River – a deteriorated area defined by vacant lots and unfinished buildings. It was a challenging site but also the one that could have the biggest impact in revitalizing the area.
Open since December 1, 2017, Foro Boca is defined by its concrete volumes that seem as though randomly arranged, not unlike the rocks piled up to form a dramatic breakwater nearby. The volumes’ varying scale helps relate the building to its immediate context: the waterfront, the rocky breakwater, the ocean and the city. It is a raw and powerful sight – a structure stripped of superfluous elements that anchors this area in transition. To enable the hall to withstand the harsh conditions, Rojkind used concrete textured with a diagonal wooden plank pattern, which, over time, will develop a patina similar to that of the rocks.
The granite used in the existing boulevard extends into the building, making an almost seamless connection between new and existing public spaces – one as carefully considered as the building itself. As with his design for Cineteca Nacional, Rojkind recognized the exterior plazas as a key part of the project; the hall would bring people to the waterfront on a daily basis. As a result of this consideration, the building and the public realm are intrinsically connected and mutually beneficial.
The entrance is placed under an impressive cantilevered volume that creates a compressed space 2.3 meters high. Inside, the spatial organization around the main hall – designed to appear as a floating box – is revealed. Bridges and mezzanines occupy the double- and triple-height spaces, which are separated from the main volume by carefully considered gaps. Through the skylights, a dramatic brightness bathes the textured walls, creating a spiritual atmosphere. There is a continuous flow of people along the open walkways, where each turn offers a new spatial relationship, an effect that Rojkind relates to musical rhythms or the nearby waves. It is an almost-voyeuristic experience, with everyone simultaneously watching and being watched. Oak wood, used in the balconies and railings, defines these spaces and provides warmth to the interior.
Foro Boca continues with Rojkind’s philosophy of providing added value to each project, envisioning new opportunities beyond the original brief. In this case, besides becoming the home of the orchestra, the hall has additional areas that can accommodate various cultural events: mezzanines doubling as secondary stages for performances; spaces suited for book readings; and outdoor plazas for enjoying free projections of the concert taking place inside. In its first month, the concert hall was already demonstrating its potential by hosting an audiovisual piece by Cocolab and a rock concert by Porter.
Foro Boca officially opened with a concert by the Boca del Río Philharmonic Orchestra, which featured acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell. However, for the workers building the structure, the first notes had been played a few weeks earlier, while the concert hall was still under construction, to let them know that this was also their project. It was a symbolic gesture reflecting the character and ambition of Foro Boca: a building created to help revitalize Boca del Río and to position the city nationally while becoming a part of its daily life. The remarkable building synthesizes many of the themes explored in previous projects by Rojkind Arquitectos while demonstrating that high design can and should benefit all people regardless of their economic means. This goal should be the ambition and shared responsibility of all leaders, designers and users.
Year: March/April 2018