When local architecture practice HW-Studio was tapped to redevelop an abandoned warehouse into a food market in the Mexican city of Morelia, the firm looked to the site’s extant conditions and the surroundings for inspiration. HW-Studio founder and lead project architect Rogelio Vallejo Bores was born and raised in the city and loved the site’s sense of solitude — a quality that he says is uncommon in the downtown of any Mexican city. As a result, he and his team used a minimalist design and material palette to create a food market, named the Mercado ‘Cantera’ (also known as the Morelia Market), that would defer to its surroundings.
Completed this year on a budget of approximately $80,000 USD, the new food market in Morelia spans an area of 3,444 square feet. Before the architects began work on the design, they studied the perimeter and found it was located two blocks from one of the country’s most important music schools — a former convent of XCI Century Dominican nuns of Santa Catalina de Siena — as well as one of the most beloved and popular city squares, Las Rosas. Then the architects mapped out the most popular food spots in the area and found that people congregated in the public squares to eat. As a result, the guiding principles of the food market are borrowed from the design of public squares, from the use of natural materials, axial routes and sense of openness and connection with nature.
“We thought that the place had lost its soul,” said the architects of the warehouse due to its numerous renovations. “Everything antique with architectural value would be rescued, and the new would formally and materially have a different nature: a white and defined nature that would demonstrate its own presence and its own historical and conceptual moment. With this, we would try to achieve a balance between the new and the old.”
In contrast to the stone walls and other antique details that were preserved, the architects inserted minimalist and modern white volumes to house the food vendors. They also added a new tree-lined central corridor between the new volumes to emphasize the open-air market’s connection with the outdoors. The eating areas are located on the top of the stalls. The architects noted, “Its most important function is to frame, without exclusion, the different layers of architectural history left over the centuries.”
Images by Bruno Gómez de la Cueva