Yale School of Architecture | Studio Tatiana Bilbao | with Karolina Czeczek | Feldman Nomination | 2015


The objective of this project is to turn Real de Palmas, a low-income workers housing settlement of 60.000 inhabitants near Monterrey, from an agglomeration of houses into a self-sufficient city. Different scales of interventions respond to problems ranging from underutilized backyards, lack of public amenities and civic programs, nonexistent employment opportunities and need for more housing. The urban strategy takes advantage of the existing structure while allowing for organic growth.

By rezoning the central ‘Spine’ of Real de Palmas, we give a programmatic and functional meaning to the purely formal road system. The enlargement of the sidewalks and introduction of bike lanes prioritize pedestrians on the currently underutilised roads. Extensions of the houses and introduction of commercial activities along the ‘Spine’ allow for creation of work spaces for the inhabitants. There is a range of small scale businesses emerging in Real de Palmas,but currently commercial extensions of domestic units are illegal.

The ‘Carpets’ work on the scale of the neighborhoods and connect existing green areas, offering a place for community based activities. They are designed to provide a sense of identity in each of the housing neighborhoods. The carpets are created by unified paving material, urban furniture or planting and some take advantage of abandoned buildings to create a series of covered recreational areas.

The ‘Backyards’ reach back to the Vecindad housing typology in Mexico, turning the underutilized backyards into shared spaces (more pleasant area to play for children than the street) or urban farming where people can grow their own food . This intervention allows for more efficient use of space and creates new relations between the neighbors (not existent at this point). In some house typologies extensions between houses take advantage of the 5 foot gap between the buildings to provide an additional bedroom to each household. With the introduction of an additional structure, vertical extensions to the housing units are also possible.

‘Pockets’ anchored around existing civic buildings create a break in the relentless grid of houses and introduce recreational, cultural and civic programs that will help Real de Palmas to become a functioning city.

The ‘Educational Pocket’ is anchored around the existing school building, and provides programs lacking in the development: a trade school and a library, connected through shaded outdoor spaces.

The gridded paving of the Pocket unifies the square while it responds to the relentless grid of Real de Palmas. Unlike the rigid grid of the settlement, this new grid allows for incorporation of different scales. Smaller, more intimate plazas break down the scale of the ‘Pocket’.

Piers support the floating volume the trade school, and provide informal outdoor study spaces, anchoring the building in its surrounding. The piers can be filled in to form additional classrooms, if needed. Lecture halls are located on the upper floor. A large canopy gives shading, creates indoor-outdoor continuity and a connection to the library.

The courtyarded library is composed of stepping volumes that create bleacher seating towards the sport fields and allow for a transparent open plan on the ground floor. Reading areas are located on ground level, while the stepping volumes house the stacks and the auditorium.

A serpentine path links the two buildings and connects them with the outdoor stage, the urban farm, the botanical garden, the pool and the existing school buildings.

Both buildings present an attempt to create civic scale buildings that are are necessary for Real de Palmas to grow into a city, and encompass the urban strategy of working with the existing structure, as well as allowing for organic growth.


The ‘Market Pocket’ is inspired by two common, existing market typologies in Mexico: formal and permanent structures of mercados and informal, temporary tianguis. Proposed market is a shading canopy over the fixed market area and few enclosed volumes introduce spaces for food trade and small scale production.

The canopy is made of interconnected concrete shells that can collect a rain water, a scarce resource in the area. Inspired by Felix Candela’s structures in Mexico, they can be easily produced by low skilled labor. There are fixed market tables around the each column and there exist and few bigger volumes in the market. Those volumes are built as concrete frames filled with ornamental ceramic brick that allows for concurrent enclosure and ventilation of spaces.

The market is important for Real de Palmas from the economic and cultural point of view because allows for informal exchange of goods, crafts and traditions.