Perusing Gerardo Broissin's portfolio, it's hard to believe the depth and breadth of work the 32-year-old has built in his short career, especially considering he wasn't always sure of what he wanted to do. As a teenager he was torn between pursuing medicine and architecture. "They are both very passionate careers," he notes.
Eventually, architecture won out, and Broissin devoted himself to his studies at Anahuac University in his hometown of Mexico City. But it was at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles, while taking a design course abroad during his final year of school, that he had his moment of clarity. While there, he was exposed to the experimental and transformative potential of architecture—a departure from his studies at the more conservative and rigid Anahuac program. Returning to complete his degree with his newfound vision was a difficult transition, he says.
Shortly after graduating in 1998, Broissin set out on his own, eschewing the traditional apprenticeship route. His first project was a house for his cousin in Mexico City. "A typical commission in Mexico," he says, “where the client arrives with lots of magazines and shows you the house they'd like to have." The result, a white stucco building with a red-tile roof, was "like any house you can find in Mexico," says Broissin apologetically. "It didn't bring anything to architecture, but the client was very happy with it." What the architect describes as a "very common office interior" soon followed. While not exactly "big idea" material, these jobs served as the springboard for Broissin’s partnership with Jorge Hernandez and the founding of their firm, Grupo BH in 2000.
Photo: © Paul Czitrom
Since then, Broissin has had ample opportunity to put some of his ideas to the test and has worked on a variety of retail showrooms, custom residences, a high-concept nightclub, and a prize-winning cultural center for Mexico City's La Salle University. While being mindful of budget constraints and client and end-user needs, Broissin avoids following any established design principle. "The moment you follow one," he says, "you have lost the opportunity to work with fresh ideas." Another way Broissin stays fresh is by entering competitions, including a scheme for the Estonian National Museum, done in collaboration with Federico Soriano's Madrid firm, S&Aa; a modular, multifamily dwelling in Gdansk, Poland; and, most recently, a residential tower for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Since the disbanding of Grupo BH earlier this year, Broissin has kept the momentum going as BROISSINarchitects and is currently working on a number of projects, including a private residence overlooking the mountains in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and a 20-room boutique hotel in Morelos, Mexico, which he will shroud in a woven fiberglass sunscreen to reduce solar heat gain.
To date, all the architect's work has been in Mexico, and while he wouldn't be opposed to taking his practice onto the international stage, he likes staying local. "This is the place of my birth, and I want to bring something new to architecture in my country," says Broissin, who maintains that a tradition of mediocre architecture has taken hold south of the border over the past several decades. For Broissin, working here presents an opportunity: "It's a challenge for my team to break some of these architectural traditions, to do something to inspire new generations of architects in Mexico."