ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Design & Architecture -

Frida Es­cobedo takes a much more har­mo­nious and con­sid­ered ap­proach to the nat­u­ral world than many oth­ers in her pro­fes­sion. When she moved into her apart­ment in Mex­ico City ear­lier this year, she de­cided that the view – ‘this beau­ti­ful ur­ban land­scape, the trees, the build­ings’ – was un­match­able, and that she would de­sign her home to com­ple­ment it. ‘ Why would I choose to fill this space with things?’ she asks. ‘In­stead, I can play with the idea of hav­ing small com­po­si­tions, a well-placed piece of art or a pho­to­graph.’

Fol­low­ing this ethos of re­straint, the apart­ment con­tains just a few, care­fully se­lected pieces of fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing a Mar­cel Breuer ‘Club’ chair (a gift from her fa­ther), a sap­phire-coloured Calvin Klein rug and a seat made of vol­canic rock, de­signed by Frida her­self. There are ob­jects that strad­dle the prac­ti­cal and the cre­ative, such as the ge­o­met­ri­cal cop­per ma­que­tte, orig­i­nally made for an Ae­sop shop in­te­rior, that has been placed on a book­shelf.

The re­sult is a tran­quil aes­thetic that Frida has de­vel­oped with help from her friends – many of them artists, with whom she ex­changes pieces. Her lat­est is the ab­stract mono­chrome panel in the en­trance hall, which is by her best friend, Rodolfo Díaz Cer­vantes.

Frida’s own re­cent work in­cludes this year’s Ser­pen­tine pav­il­ion (she’s the youngest ar­chi­tect ever to take on the world-fa­mous com­mis­sion). In­spired by a style of Mex­i­can lat­tice­work called celosia, its walls are a web of grey con­crete roof tiles, ar­ranged so that the light within con­stantly changes as the sun moves through the sky, or be­hind this sum­mer’s rare patches of cloud.

The con­crete tiles might seem a util­i­tar­ian choice, but this fo­cus on the prac­ti­cal is a char­ac­ter­is­tic of Frida’s ar­chi­tec­ture. From early on in her ca­reer, she re­lied on us­ing cheaper items, as­sured in her be­lief that, in her words, ‘cre­at­ing so­phis­ti­cated or com­plex things doesn’t have any­thing to do with us­ing ex­pen­sive ma­te­ri­als’.

Un­like her home, where the lo­ca­tion dom­i­nated all de­sign de­ci­sions, Frida knew that the pav­il­ion would only be in situ in the grounds of Lon­don’s Ser­pen­tine Gallery for a few months, be­fore be­ing moved to an as-yet un­spec­i­fied lo­ca­tion. This un­cer­tainty in­flu­enced her process: ‘The pav­il­ion breaks with the no­tion that ar­chi­tec­ture is site-spe­cific and per­ma­nent. The no­tions of place and tem­po­ral­ity com­pletely change.’ Those strong yet del­i­cately


lat­ticed walls, how­ever, will al­ways look spec­tac­u­lar, with the sun turn­ing them into a spec­ta­cle, what­ever its even­tual set­ting.

Frida’s other ma­jor de­sign projects span the fields of art and ar­chi­tec­ture. They in­clude the for­mer home of artist David Al­faro Siqueiros (now a mu­seum) in Mex­ico, and an in­stal­la­tion, con­sist­ing of rect­an­gu­lar and curved plat­forms, un­veiled in the John Made­jski Gar­den at Lon­don’s Vic­to­ria & Al­bert Mu­seum in 2015. They may ini­tially seem very dif­fer­ent, but Frida’s de­signs all have a shared DNA. ‘Ini­tially, I thought they were sep­a­rate, but now I see that it’s the same thing,’ she says. ‘ We’re talk­ing about space in dif­fer­ent tones, but al­ways us­ing the same lan­guage.’

Back in Mex­ico City, Frida is still putting her stamp on the place, mak­ing qui­etly con­fi­dent dec­o­ra­tive state­ments with each piece of fur­ni­ture she adds. At first, she didn’t spend much time here, due to her work com­mit­ments, which have in­cluded a stint at Cal­i­for­nia’s Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity and work­ing on a ‘civic stage’ – a wooden plat­form that peo­ple can climb on – in a pub­lic square in Por­tu­gal. Now, how­ever, she is a more per­ma­nent res­i­dent. She may be set­tled, but her home, she says, is ‘con­stantly evolv­ing’.

Din­ing area Lo­cated at the back of the liv­ing room, this ‘2485’ desk by Florence Knoll is per­fect for work and en­ter­tain­ing. It is sur­rounded by ‘Stan­dard’ chairs by Jean Prouvé and lit by the ‘Two Arm’ wall light by Serge Mouille De­tail, left The book­case, a de­sign by Frida, dis­plays cu­rated ob­jects, such as a small piece of blue mar­ble from Mar­mol Stock­ist de­tails on p195

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