Michel Rojkind on a design strategy to cope with overstimulation (trailer)

The Mexican architect shares three ways he wades through our world of chaos and flux to create award-winning work.

“One thing is for sure,” says Mexican architect Michel Rojkind. “In a country like ours, you are going to get overstimulated.”

The founder of Rojkind Arquitectos, based in Mexico City, spoke about his work at Design Indaba Conference 2014. In his presentation, he outlines his three-part design strategy to cope with this overstimulation: attention, selection and adaptation.

Rojkind Arquitectos uses these three steps in a tool the studio developed called ADD, Adaptive Diagnostic Design. “When we told our clients we did research, they would make fun of us. So we developed this tool to really make them understand that it was important that we give them the things they didn't see... how we can add value. The diagnosis is already a design strategy. It’s not only an investigation of what happens or what exists, but rather all of what could happen or what could be.”

He uses his design for the Nestle Chocolate Museum to demonstrate how this works in practice. 

Rojkind was approached to design a tunnel inside a Nestle factory for children to experience the chocolate-making process. While using the ADD tool, the studio's research revealed that Mexico, despite its Aztec heritage of trading in cocoa, didn't have a museum of chocolate. Rojkind convinced Nestle to build one - a brilliant example of making visible what the client themselves couldn't see. 

The result is a striking red building with a 300-metre long facade along the motorway, creating a new image for the factory in the generic industrial area. The museum creates a voyage of discovery for visitors and houses a theater, a museum shop and a connecting passage that leads into the actual factory. 

We understood that we could push a company. And that even though we were briefed, we could read between the lines and show our client something that they weren't seeing, he says.

He also shares a project that, while not built, is another example of how pushing the brief can result in unexpected, even controvertial, outcomes. Rojkind Arquitectos was invited by the Mexican president to participate in an architectural competition to design the bicentennial arch. "We didn't agree with his ideas of doing an arch that didn't serve as anything," explains Rojkind. 

Because the site for the arch sits in an upmarket area near one of the largest parks in the city, he decided to horizontally and vertically extend the landscape of the park and introduced futuristic social housing. 

"It was interesting to know that we were entering a competition not to win but to have an opinion," he says. "We all need to have an opinion. It was not about winning; it was about having something to say. And I am glad we didn't get deported!"

The studio has a penchant for collaboration. "We don't collaborate because we don't know how to do certain things. We collaborate because we enjoy being contaminated by other ideas," he says. 


Watch the Talk with Michel Rojkind