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The low rise residential Esfera City Centre in Mexico’s third largest city, Monterrey, is a community-oriented development with a focus on sustainability.

July 2015

It’s not every day that an architect radically revises the client’s brief, but that’s what Zaha Hadid Architects managed to do with Esfera City Centre in Monterrey, Mexico, when the original plan for 12 equal residential towers was converted into a single low rise structure molded to fit the environment.

The design for the Esfera City Centre community diverges dramatically from the tubular shapes and twisted facades often associated with the work of Zaha Hadid and her associates. Almost every wall is tilted, and the structure undulates as it follows the landscape. The result is an irregular hive of 981 apartments nestled around three sides of the rectangular site that fits the character of Monterrey and the location of the project.

The apartments will include small lofts (45-55 sqm); one-bedroom (80-99 sqm); two-bedroom (100-120 sqm); three-bedroom (120-140 sqm); and four-bedroom (140-165 sqm). More than half of the apartments have two or three bedrooms. The project will be constructed in three phases. Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in 2018.

The setting

Monterrey is the third largest city in Mexico and a key business centre where companies such as CEMEX, Groupo Alfa, DINA, Lanix, Coca Cola Femsa, Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Heineken’s, and Vitro Glass conduct their operations in the country and beyond. Monterrey has also developed as a focal point for international IT with Accenture, SAS Institute, and GE located in the city.

Composed of nine municipalities, Monterrey has grown rapidly since 2000 as an important manufacturing and technology centre, supported by the Monterrey Institute of Technology, and key faculties of UANL university southeast of the city. Together with the national and international corporations, these academic institutions feed an intellectual ecosystem that attracts well-educated and well-paid employees who appreciate being close to work and schools for their children and living in a defined urban community.

Esfera City Centre’s location in Huajuco Canyon reflects the contrasts of Monterrey: the noisy commercial side with an eight-lane motorway and the quiet, low-density suburban developments that approach the base of the mountains in the distance. The Huajuco Canyon itself is a long and narrow valley flanked by two mountain ranges, creating a subtropical microclimate that is less harsh than conditions in the centre of the city, with fresher summers and winters allowing residents to take full advantage of their outdoor space.

As part of the city’s on-going plans to accommodate a fast-growing population without increasing congestion and demands on existing social and infrastructure networks in the city centre, the canyon is growing into an important new employment, residential, transport, educational and entertainment hub in the southeast of Monterrey.

Residential housing in Mexico

Two years ago the Mexican government announced that development of housing in urban areas would be its priority. That included refurbishing older buildings and making it easier to start new projects at the edge of cities. The government’s approach reflected a general desire to live closer to work, to get away from the North American suburban model that required lengthy commuting.

The government’s shift in approach shocked the top three builders of low cost homes, Geo, Homex, and Urbi who hold large land banks in places where people no longer want to live. However, it was a boon for smaller developers of mid-price homes like Javer and Ara who have benefitted from the focus on urban housing.

Many Mexicans tend to buy homes for cash, but for those who do not have enough money, banks provide fewer than 10 percent of mortgages. More homes are financed by a state-subsidised system that taxes individual salaries to create a pool of money available for lending to homebuyers at low interest.

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