“In Mexico, you don’t need anything to practice—a lawyer could do architecture,” says Juan Alfonso Garduño Jardón, “which is not great, but good for young architects.” So good that he, his sister Maria de los Ángeles Garduño, and classmate Armando González, established their own firm in 1997, before any of them had even received degrees in architecture. For Garduño Jardón, a parallel career in academia also began around this time, when the dean of their college asked him to substitute for a professor who couldn’t make it to class.
As a young man teaching and practicing, Garduño Jardón, now 45, became increasingly disillusioned by the work his firm was pursuing. “We were very ambitious,” he recalls, “but we weren’t earning money.” An experience with a housing project in 2003 left him particularly jaded. “The developer totally ripped us off,” says Garduño Jardón. That signaled a turning point for the architect, who applied to the Urban Design program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Given his experiences at the time, Garduño Jardón decided against another architecture degree because “I wanted to learn how I could use the city to benefit myself—just like any developer.” When he graduated from the GSD in 2007, however, his approach to urbanism had shifted: “The responsibility that citizens, architects, and developers have to contribute to a better city became a lot clearer,” he says.
After returning to Mexico, Garduño Jardón went back to the firm with Maria and Armando, and became dean of his alma mater. The practice, he admits, was not thriving, and his partners were keen on following other interests—in 2011, de los Ángeles Garduño left to pursue her own master’s degree, while González shipped off to clown school in Europe. It was then that Garduño Jardón decided to step down from his deanship and reestablish the practice as his own—one with a more urban-centric perspective. He kept the original firm name, G3, because “the idea of having a solo name never made me comfortable,” he says.
With this new iteration, Garduño Jardón has taken on more work in the public realm. In a design- build project that began as a collaboration with students, and that was exhibited at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale’s Mexican pavilion, his team proposed a model for territorial development to empower disadvantaged urban communities. Currently the firm is working on a large urban project in Querétaro with housing, retail, and offices. It’s a typical developer-driven project, “but we are pushing for an interesting way to understand this part of the city,” he says.
That’s not to say that G3 doesn’t engage in private projects—particularly single-family houses—which help to finance the firm’s interventions in marginalized areas. Garduño Jardón sees overlap between his public work and his residences, which are characterized by their sculptural forms and earthen tones and textures. Across typologies, he looks to incorporate “phenomenological spaces,” moments of peace and introspection. He also adopts an efficient, contextually sensitive approach to materials. For example, when building in a community with limited means, Garduño Jardón learned to work with earth bricks, which he then used for a highend residence. For another house, he covered brick walls in concrete, which proved to be cheaper and easier to control than poured concrete. “One project informs the other,” says the architect.
Expanding on that idea, he adds, “We really try to stretch ourselves to use natural materials in different yet practical ways,” Garduño Jardón notes. And while the firm maintains an urban edge, nothing is off the table. “We like doing everything— schools, labs, places of worship,” says the architect. “It’s hard for us to say no.”
DESIGN STAFF: 6-8
PRINCIPALS: Juan Alfonso Garduño Jardón
EDUCATION: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, MAUD, 2007; Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, B.Arch., 1997
WORK HISTORY: G3 Arquitectos (in partnership), 1997–2011; (sole principal) 2011
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: New Cathedral of Querétaro, 2018; El Eco Pavilion, Mexico City, 2015; Casa L, 2015; Casa GG, 2015; Territories of Collective Empowerment, 2012; Kínder Álamos, 2011 (all in Querétaro, Mexico, except as noted)
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Casa Calvarito; Casa Lola, Guanajuato, Mexico; 5H mixed-use (all in Querétaro, Mexico, except as noted)