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Tatiana Bilbao portrait by Ana Hop

Tatiana Bilbao

Mexico City

Tatiana Bilbao designs spaces that contribute to their surroundings rather than interfere with them, and thinks about architecture as a basic human right.

Biography

Tatiana Bilbao is a Mexican-based architect whose signature projects deeply consider their distinct surroundings for a sustainable and perceptive design approach. Growing up in Mexico City influenced her relationship to public places—how they foster diverse activities, experiences, and purposes. While studying architecture at the Ibero-American University, Bilbao based her thesis project on the rehabilitation of Mexico City after the catastrophic 1985 earthquake. After graduating, Bilbao worked as an advisor in the Ministry of Development and Housing of the Government of the Federal District of Mexico City. She went on to establish her own studio in 2004, responding directly to people’s needs—from master undertakings to affordable housing developments. 

Bilbao’s first venture was a home for artist Gabriel Orozco. In the nearly two decades since, she has designed residences, offices, and research centers, as well as the Culiacán Botanical Garden, the Pilgrimage Route in Jalisco, and more. With a sharp focus on sustainable living, her trademark approach is to design elegant, geometric spaces that contribute to their surroundings rather than interfere with them. Materials like concrete, clay brick, and glass assist in uplifting the nearby elements of mother nature’s bounty. 

In 2005, she became a design professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidad Iberoamericana. Bilbao has been a visiting professor at the Yale School of Architecture, the Andres Bello University, the Rice School of Architecture, and the Peter Behrens School of Architecture. Additionally, she has taught at Columbia University‘s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Her leading-edge investigations have been published in The New York Times, A + U, and Domus.

During the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Bilbao unveiled a social housing prototype composing concrete blocks and wooden pallets to shed critical light on the housing crisis in Mexico’s underserved districts. In 2019, Denmark’s Louisiana Museum debuted a riveting show on Bilbao’s work as part of the series “The Architect’s Studio,” an exhibition that illuminates the careers of globally renowned architects. The presentation revealed her ardent dedication to sustainable and socially conscious architectural design, as well as the myriad of ways in which Mexican culture and heritage are pivotal to her practice. 

For her buildings that mix urban surroundings with social values, she has been recognized with several awards, including the Kunstpreis Berlin in 2012, the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture Prize by the LOCUS Foundation in 2014, the Marcus Prize in 2019, and the Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medal in 2020. She is currently in the process of rebuilding a Cistercian monastery in Germany—a project that has been evolving for six years—which Bilbao considers a transformative and life-changing endeavor. 

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