Urban [De]compositions: A Site Analysis Method for the Jardínes del Pedregal

by Lauren Bergenholtz

Digital collage, Jardín Ortega

In the context of Mexico City, the material condition of earth offers a method for producing new chronologies in which a given site can be understood as a geologic column. These strata, and the human bodies which inhabit and move through sites, are participants in constant processes of shifting, decomposition, accretion, and excavation. Such an approach offers the potential to create non-linear chronologies of site that link processes of geologic, social, and material transformations.

My research will begin by addressing the specific environmental characteristics of Mexico City that justify this approach. Ongoing subsidence, the threat of earthquakes, and the continued hydrological challenges posed by the historic lakebed all point to the relevance of the geologic metaphor, and the necessity of viewing sites in a timeframe that extends beyond the lives of their built structures. I then intend to present a framework for site investigation that focuses on material conditions, the deconstruction of site histories, and the ways in which city inhabitants experience geologic process. These experiences can be understood through the typologies of garden, grave, construction site, and archeological site.

I will then apply this framework in order to deconstruct and reconstitute a history of the Jardines del Pedregal by Luís Barragan. I have selected this site for its explicit geological characteristics, the manner in which in it has transformed since its inception, and the historical link between the pre-Columbian and modern era that was at the basis of the site’s original development. Site investigation will produce a catalog of material conditions and historical data that will then be used to create a series of collaged sectional studies intended to function as non-linear site chronologies that emphasize dynamics of change.

I intend to visit and record selected sites within the area of Pedregal and UNAM, in addition to the Jardín Ortega. First hand experience of site will be supplemented by architectural drawings and site surveys, existing scholarship, and information on the natural history of the site.  Research will also address the work of artists engaging with geology, history, and recomposition, including Dr. Atl, Mathias Goeritz, and Abraham Cruzvillegas. Geospatial and environmental data, including geological features, soil, and vegetation, will also be incorporated into the final images.

The basin, Lago de Texcoco, Distrito Federal, and the lava fields of San Ángel

Jardines del Pedregal

“el árbol que crece chueco , jamás sus ramas enderezan “

by Isaac Vasquez Avila


 oscillating between presence and absence, my project focuses on the overlooked floatsam of daily life in and around the Zócalo and asks the question; what is earth? what are its material conditions? And how can it be represented through the metaphor of an image(s)?

using material I have found while in Mexico as the foundation for a series of drawings and collages I’ve produced in my makeshift hotel studio, I am exploring the conceptual wear and tear of earth’s natural forces and they’re effects on the material conditions of El Zócalo as a part of my research practice in visual art.


El Zócalo