Mexican architect Gabriela Carrillo has won the fifth Royal Academy Dorfman Award.
At a ceremony held late last week in London, Carrillo was presented with the prestigious annual prize, which was established by the Royal Academy of Arts to honor practitioners who are helping shape the future of architecture and architectural practice. Although the dynamic, enthusiastic Carrillo oversees her own eponymous Mexico City–based practice, she is also a member of Colectivo c733, one of many Mexican architecture studios brought together by Román Guillermo Meyer Falcón, a former architect who currently serves as Secretary of Agrarian, Land, and Urban Development in Mexico’s left-wing government, to help rapidly upgrade the country’s public housing and infrastructure
Sir Lloyd Dorfman CBE, trustee of the Royal Academy Trust and founding partner of the awards, presents Mexican architect Gabriela Carrillo with the 2023 honor. Photo John Phillips/Getty © Royal Academy of Arts
Established in 2019, c733 is made up largely of members of the architecture faculty at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). A graduate of the university, Carrillo has served as head of UNAM’s Research and Degree Seminar Estudio RX since 2018. The Carrillo-cofounded collective has developed 35 public projects in locations across Mexico, all of which have been built in the last 5 years, including the epic yet graceful market buildings in the cities of Matamaros and Tapachula, the latter of which was a 2023 MCHAP Award finalist.
The collective’s work is part of an ambitious undertaking. Since Meyer Falcón took office in 2018, 135 municipalities have collectively received more than a billion U.S. dollars for urban improvement projects. Around 900 of these projects have already been designed, built, and occupied as part of the feverishly-paced initiative. Carrillo’s work with c733 represents the best of it, but a huge number of offices have been involved in their design.
“I’m optimistic about what space can do to support a dignified and democratic society,” said Carrillo at the Dorfman Award ceremony. In addition to her work on public spaces with c733 (some of which were highlighted in the awards submission), she has over 20 years of experience in private practice, including as partner at the award-winning Taller Rocha-Carrillo, working on the stunning brick studio of the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. She established her own studio, Taller Gabriela Carrillo, in 2019.
Casa Piedra, Guerrero, Mexico, by Taller Gabriela Carrillo. Photo © Rafael Gamo, courtesy Taller Gabriela Carrillo.
Carrillo has continued to work with former partner Mauricio Rocha since terminating their namesake practice, but now also collaborates with other architects and designers around Mexico. “Since starting my own practice, I have been working in several directions, not being attached to anyone in particular, but dealing with many different collaborations,” she said.
Sumayya Vally, principal of Johannesburg-based Counterspace and a member of the Niall McLaughlin-chaired Dorfman Award jury panel, was particularly taken by the breadth of Carrillo’s output.
“Gabriela’s studio demonstrated a very diverse portfolio of works that ranges in scale; ranges between the temporary and permanent; and in degrees of private and public, yet all the time displaying attitudes to each of those conditions that are consistent,” Vally remarked, adding: “It's really inspiring to see a practice that on one hand is really concerned about the challenges that we have, but is also embracing an attitude to beauty and form-making with conviction.”
Ecoparque Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico, by Colectivo c733. Photo © Rafael Gamo, courtesy Taller Gabriela Carrillo
Joining Taller Gabriela Carrillo, the three other jury-selected finalists shortlisted for the 2023 Dorfman Award, which comes with a cash prize of £10,000, were former Design Vanguard COMUNAL (Mexico), Harquitectes (Spain), and Tropical Space (Vietnam). At the same November 2nd awards ceremony, Irish architect and educator Shane de Blacam was bestowed with the Royal Academy Architecture Prize for his lifetime contribution to the profession.