Infrastructure + Chihuahua

Indianapolis based urban design firm w/purpose & Guatemala based Architect Rafael Yee Melgar have been invited to Isthmus Norte School of Architecture and Design to offer several intense design seminars and public lecture. Principal, Wil Marquez will visit Chihuahua, Mexico with Yee Melgar in December and will include a field study at University of Texas at Austin – School of Architecture.


Rafael Yee Melgar, received his Masters in Architecture with Distinction from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is a recipient of the Fulbright scholarship and has received multiple academic prizes. Professionally, his experience lies in both public and private clients and includes international projects with Eric van Egeraat with Associated Architects in Budapest.Yee Melgar’s experience in academia includes:

The University Rafael Landívar (Guatemala), University Francisco Marroquín (Guatemala), School of Isthmus Architecture (Panama) and “visiting scholar” professor at the University of Michigan.


Marquez and Yee Melgar met as colleagues at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Planning and continued to have successful and shared similar experiences in both academic and urban environments.

Isthmus Norte is a university that focuses on creating pluralistic and tolerant atmospheres. They are an institution that promises an open dialog and debate between architects and designers. They encourage humanist principles that promote respect and defense of our environments against the energy crisis that affects our planet.

Taller Abstract:

In a recent November article in The Chronicle of Education, James Proctor, Director of the Environmental-Studies Program at Lewis & Clark College, questioned what a more “cosmopolitan sustainability movement might look like?” I quickly considered my own firms efforts, of late, with local advocacy groups, public markets, and development corporations about the renewed interest in our cities interdependence along cultural, political, economic, ecological, or social lines – all key elements that Proctor categorized under the “rubric of cosmopolitanism”.

Movements, such as these, often demand we shift our thinking about how we retool our environments to deliver notions of regeneration to communities for the 21st Century. We seem to be in a climate where neighborhoods and citizens are growing increasingly less interested in the idea of one dimensional planning that has become the default for planning and development departments. This includes predictable program models, tired community surveys, shelved master plans, and uninspired development frameworks that leave little consideration for the interdependence or success of solving complex growth issues. Disenchanted, communities are organizing under new forms of urban design typologies, fixed on equipping cities with re-imagined landscapes and vision plans based on infrastructure, identity, ecology, arts, advocacy and people. These new modes of infrastructure can easily be characterized by their overlap of program functions, along with cultural and corresponding uses that benefit not just the local, but an expanded network of autonomously functioning neighborhoods, retail zones, and suburbs.

These conversations are being introduced and implemented through programmatic elements such as energy installations, public pavilions, gateways, multi-model stations, playgrounds, sculpture gardens, cultural trails, pocket parks, and hybrid type public facilities that challenge the formal structure of the city, connect us, or bring communities together. These public infrastructure scenarios are popping up everywhere and being discovered daily at interchanges, bridges, production clusters, retail, and transit nodes.

This effort on place making has grown out a type of local activism that insists on denying formal boundaries, diversifying programmatic frameworks, and discovering hybrids and shared cultural opportunities that enhance notions of place, identity, and their future. It is in many ways it is a scaled “stimulant” towards what will be the eventual integration of contemporary landscape and architecture.

In all cases these elements invite activities once left to formal or permanent institutions to reorganize under new modes of urban place making that take on more temporary, seasonal, or transitional structures. They will take on a very different form and function than those of fifty years ago. What I believe we can all agree on is that wind-powered generators, green roofs, and organic gardens alone, will not solve the plethora of issues surrounding cities and neighborhoods in the emerging twenty-first century.

In Chihuahua our studio will investigate the potential of qualifying transitional and leftover non-spaces, as new broad minded public designs. We will consider notions of materiality (light, glass, waste, projection, earth, metal, etc.) and movement. We will interrogate these multi-scaled “in-between” spaces to determine the transformative nature and meaning of infrastructure, while reinforcing the awareness and identity of the city and its users.