Written by: Danaé Salazar
Photography: Rodrigo Navarro
We wanted to talk about the Roma neighborhood, about how to live it, how to cohabit and interact with it on every level. But not from a journalistic point of view, plagued by all the possible clichés one can say about this area. And it’s not like there has been little ink spilled about it. Besides being the main character of more than one story in Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, and inspiring authors like William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, who wrote here some of their most renowned literary works, one experiments La Roma every single day. While there is a certain magic to every one of its streets, one also inhabits, studies, works and walks the Roma neighbourhood. One also eats, dances, and talks here.
Ignacio, otherwise known as Nacho, lives in a hotel. “I inherited the nomadic blood from my father. He was a hotelier and developer; I grew up in a family of seven siblings, literally living in hotel rooms. Nowadays, I live in a hotel three days a week. I really enjoy hotel life; it feels like home. Besides, I’m a spaces person, so I really have to like where I am. On the other hand, I don’t like routines, so changing rooms all the time really works for me. My nomadic essence is like a multiplicity of spaces, which is useful due to the projects I’m involved in. Constantly moving allows me to be in touch with more people and discover new things along the way.”
In fact, this has to do with the time Nacho spends in the city. His movable lifestyle has been going on for over a decade; the transformation of the centric neighborhoods – where he normally moves around – has occurred in parallel with the success of his work. “I think, fundamentally, there is a spirit of conservation, of revitalizing something that has great value and that we could reinterpret in many ways. Many of my clients consider how to reinvent a product with fresh ideas, but without betraying its past. This is what I like about the neighborhoods in the Cuauhtémoc area: there are so many good ideas and concepts at a visual and experience level, that they are becoming more relevant.”
“This new direction”, he continues, “is the result of multiculturality, but with a clear respect to what this places are, without the orthodox philosophy of mexicanity as something untouchable or sacred in terms of aesthetic values. We come from millenary cultures, which are very rich in visual and gastronomic ideas; one thing is respecting what is embedded in our blood, to later be able to present it in a new way – your roots have to be in touch with the new. These new formulas must be presented with respect, but also with a certain degree of innovation and ease: it’s ok to break the rules a little bit”. Like one of his projects that is currently a huge success, and of which he seems thrilled. “I like to talk about this because it’s a very basic concept– churros and chocolate. Churrerías El Moro have a long time tradition and have become relevant. By respecting a philosophy of how to do things, we have transformed them into a totally new and fresh product, and each time we open a new location there are long lines to get a churro. These are products with a global character that contribute to build better neighborhoods, better cities, a better Mexico. Plus, you get awards for it – Churrería El Moro in London has been awarded for the best gastronomic concept. In the end, this means we’re doing something, we are making the city and the sidewalks better, giving place to cultural exchange”.
For him, as an architect, design has to be multidisciplinary. “Designing cars and clothes, or making music and documentaries, was all to understand that creativity moves more or less in the same way. What changes are the tools and the intellectual processes, because the creative person remains the same. In our studio we are not designers, nor we act as if we were, but we act as consultants who create value through watching and solving a problem”, he says in a chat held at his office. And if this is still not clear, what Nacho does is design concepts that can easily go from the design of a product, an identity, a campaign or a brand, to the total design of a restaurant, a hotel or master plans. In his firm, surrounded by collaborators, they do industrial design, architecture, as well as documentaries and videos.
I always think one has to be bold in this sense and not be afraid. “Go big or go home”, I say. But always have order and coherence in each project, because that coherence, with clear narratives, is quite powerful. And when it’s powerful, it migrates to a terrain that has nothing to do with taste, but with science. And this is where I come in“, he concludes.
“We are making the city and the sidewalks better with our projects. We are giving place to cultural exchange.”