Sited at the corner of Naranjo and Manuel Carpio, the Caja de Música engages the neighborhood through a porous exterior, activating the street edge while drawing residents into the park.
The site is home to an instrument borrowing program, music library, recording studio, and radio station, embedding the commons within the neighborhood through a system of exchange.
This system relies on a social and spatial relationship with the neighborhood; shops, schools, and community organizations become practice rooms during off hours, creating a network of music throughout the neighborhood.
The Caja de Música is sited within an active area of the neighborhood; one block away from the central park and surrounded by community resources, the commons engages with its neighbors, connecting residents through music.
While the existing façade of the currently abandoned lot remains, a more porous structure emerges inside, sculpted from aggregated acoustical spaces for different sizes of performance and gathering.
This porosity creates a musical village within, encouraging collaboration and improvisation amongst musicians while engaging visitors as they move throughout the site.
The sectional conditions of the park begin to blur the edges between each space. Musical performances may start to merge, allowing the sounds of instruments and views of subsequent spaces to pull visitors through the site. The porous structure is complemented by interior programmed spaces, allowing for acoustical isolation as well as open improvisation.
This musical playground is constructed of a series of platforms; both stages for the playing of music and vantage points for views of other performances. As the park grows, the program begins to carve into the adjacent buildings, connecting through an internal courtyard. These enclosures allow for more private and acoustically enclosed spaces to attach to the open air park.
The instrument borrowing program and music library are situated on the ground floor, dividing the site into smaller spaces for musical performance and gathering. The stacking of acoustical shells and terraces allows for views to performances above, engaging visitors upon entry.
The music box park is a node with the larger musical network of the neighborhood. Every two weeks, musicians perform from the rooftops of rehearsal spaces, engaging residents in a festival that celebrates local musicians.
The Caja de Música represents one component of a larger system of commoning. Our site model explores these opportunities for commoning across four blocks in the neighborhood, imagining Santa María la Ribera as a commons of the future.
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.