The show that opens today will give visitors an inside look at the architect’s studio, process, and projects in progress
In its 15 years of practice, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio has never felt this exposed. “This show is like being in our underwear; it really undresses us in a way that nothing has done before,” principal Tatiana Bilbao says of The Architect’s Studio–Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, an exhibition about her Mexico City–based architecture firm that opened today at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. The show explores the studio like a monograph come to life, revealing the architect’s process, from hand drawing to collage to model to built work, and its landscape: Loaned artworks from Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Arte and a cabinet of curiosities from 18 select projects contribute to creating a context representative of Bilbao’s home base.
“The Louisiana Museum is a really beautiful museum but incredibly embedded in the Danish landscape, not only the physical landscape but also in the social, political, and cultural landscapes of Denmark. We operate in a completely different landscape; it’s almost 180 degrees in all the senses. So I asked the curators [Kjeld Kjeldsen and Mette Marie Kallenhauge], how can we re-create our landscape at the Louisiana?” explains Bilbao, who also notes that landscape, or context, “defines her work.”
The result is tripartite. First, visitors are exposed to a bit of Mexico City via its art, and to the way that Bilbao approaches her architectural work, via a hand drawing that extends over the floor and walls of a gallery. In her studio, projects always begin in this manner, with a sketch and a collage of images that sets a mood board and provides historic references. Then, in a shelving construction on the wall, the aforementioned cabinet of curiosities contains project-related objects—process models from one, material samples from another, a client-owned object of inspiration from yet another. The cabinet focuses mostly on the firm’s housing projects, both private residences and social housing, but also reveals current work in the public sphere. Bilbao has designed a new Mazatlán Central Park Aquarium in Mazatlán, Mexico, for example, and the ongoing work is represented by a concrete model made specifically for the show. Lastly, four projects are shown with full-scale mock-ups, diving deep into the materials preferred by the studio and its expertise in combining traditional Mexican construction methods with contemporary prefabrication techniques.
It’s the unique and never-before-seen elements like these that will be most exciting for visitors, predicts Bilbao. But they’ve also been illuminating to her: “This exhibition is going to set up a before-and-after for our studio: a before-the-Louisiana era and an after-the-Louisiana era. Because I think it has made me conscious of what we have done and how we have evolved through time.”
This is the third in a series of studio-themed shows at the Louisiana Museum of Art, and Bilbao’s predecessors are all Pritzker Prize winners: Amateur Architecture Studio (Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu) of Hangzhou, China, and Elemental (directed by Alejandro Aravena) of Santiago, Chile. It may seem like big shoes to fill, but Bilbao holds her own. Though she’s best known for her social housing projects, which infuse beauty into an oft-forgotten typology, Bilbao’s practice spans a large range, from a botanical garden to a funeral home. And in the last five years, since she was approached by Kjeldsen to participate in a monographic show, the studio has taken on some of its largest new build cultural projects: a contemporary art museum in Arévalo, Spain, and the Mazatlán Central Park Aquarium in Mexico.
The Architect’s Studio–Tatiana Bilbao Estudio was preceded by another Tatitana Bilbao Estudio–focused show at the MARCO in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2017. Though that one was different, Bilbao considers it key to understanding her own practice in preparation for the Louisiana exhibit. Now, at the culmination of both, she has only the future on her mind. Says the architect: “What is most evident for me is how I want to proceed, not where I want to be but how I want to go wherever I’m going. I think I’ve never seen this before. It is going to be interesting where we go next.”