‘CREATING SOPHISTICATED OR COMPLEX THINGS DOESN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH USING EXPENSIVE MATERIALS’
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 There are objects that straddle the practical and the creative, such as the geometrical copper maquette, originally made for an Aesop shop interior, that has been placed on a bookshelf.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
MANY OF THE OBJECTS IN FRIDA’S HOME STRADDLE THE PRACTICAL AND CREATIVE
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’. fridaescobedo.net
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