This project emerged from the collective research and collaboration with my studio, as we designed a neighborhood commons together. Thank you to Taiming Chen, Helen Farley, Gretchen Gao, Michael Glassman, Mari Kroin, Hojae Lee, Jackson Lindsay, Christine Pan, Gus Steyer, and Alper Turan.
This spring, our studio traveled to Mexico City to explore the neighborhood of Santa María la Ribera. Located just outside of the historic center of the city, we found a Barrio Mágico – a place rich with history and culture. Our aim was to study the neighborhood through a lens of commoning; where possibilities for commoning may lie, and how we might present the commons as a tool for a new way of living. Our collective research began with the vecindad housing typology, attempting to better understand the role of commoning in the past and how we may reinterpret or strengthen the commons today. This research served as the foundation for our work as we sought to embed the practice of commoning across four blocks in the neighborhood, reimagining Santa María la Ribera as a commons of the future.
The Caja de Música is a musical commons that both expands and embeds a culture of music within the neighborhood. It represents a more open and informal music program than other nearby institutional organizations, encouraging improvisation and collaboration amongst musicians in an acoustical open-air structure. Supported by an instrument borrowing program, music library, recording studio, and radio station, the Caja de Música commons community members through the playing and listening of music, transfer of knowledge, and the preservation of Mexico’s musical heritage. The commons engages all generations and skill levels, allowing the love of music to bring a wider range of people together in an informal setting.
Beyond its central location, the Caja de Música consists of a network of rehearsal spaces, further embedding the practice and appreciation of music within the fabric of the neighborhood. Spatially supported by local community organizations and residents, the Caja de Música forms a musical network throughout the community, ingraining the playing of music as a ritual of the neighborhood.
The Caja de Música park is a symbolic outpost of a larger system that is woven into the fabric of the neighborhood. This system relies on a social and spatial relationship with the community, giving the commons its foundation as a neighborhood wide program. Bleeding into spaces across Santa María la Ribera while also forming social bonds between residents, the Caja de Música commons reflects the vitality and energy of the neighborhood through a shared appreciation for music.