We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Sustainability Award winners of our "MICROHOME #6" competition – Karina Schwartzman, Karen Poulain, Paola Williams and Diego Sierra from Mexico!

Sustainability Award winners from Mexico

Karina Schwartzman, architect graduated from the Universidad Iberoamericana with a master's degree in Bioclimatic Architecture from Isthmus Panama. She is currently a professor in the Department of Architecture at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. She co-founded Tecorral Estudio, an architecture firm focused on projects at all scales, from master plans, real estate reconversion, to small living spaces. Our approach is to create spaces of comfort outdoors and indoors, making use of sustainable landscaping and natural building strategies. We also collaborate with organizations to carry out projects with a socio-environmental impact and support communities to generate projects where public spaces are recovered and the land is regenerated for health and quality of life.

Karen Poulain graduated from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEM). and holds a master's degree in Architecture and Environmental Engineering and Renewable Energies by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), and another master's degree by the Universitat de Girona (UdG) in Sustainable Materials. She’s held as a purpose to focus on earth construction systems, reevaluating them and their current uses. She founded Raíz Arquitectura, an experimental architectural studio, which offers design, building, advising and workshop services specialized in earth architecture, as well as alternative materials.

Paola Williams, architect from Tecnológico de Monterrey with an ongoing master's degree in Sustainable Architecture, Construction, and Design at Universidad del Medio Ambiente. As one of the co-founders of holaarq | taller de arquitectura, she's dedicated to the use of sustainable materials and practices in her projects. She believes architecture has the power to change the life of its users, and as an architect, she embraces and enjoys that great responsibility.

Diego Sierra is an architecture student at the Universidad Iberoamericana de México, currently in his tenth semester, and has taken part in several architecture competitions. He sees it as a way to keep gaining experience and knowledge in his development as an architect and has been credited with several distinctive awards. He also works as a freelance designer creating personal projects, renders and images for different architectural firms.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/ individuals have been involved?

Karina Schwartzman and Tecorral Estudio, have participated in very significant projects such as Huerto Tlatelolco, Attesi, and others where the scale varies from 200 m2 to several hectares of regenerative landscape design, with interventions of natural architecture. These projects are examples of giving more importance to open, green and living spaces, while keeping the buildings humble and merging with the place.

At Raíz Arquitectura, Karen Poulain meets the needs of its clients while designing high quality spaces with the least environmental impact. She firmly believes that the lack of knowledge about these materials generates and intensifies, consequently, a lack of credibility. For this reason, she has held countless workshops in several states in Mexico so that more people, regardless of whether they are professionals in the field of construction or not, acknowledge the value of this noble material.

Paola Williams and holaarq | taller de arquitectura specialize in unique residential and off-grid projects that keep a core principle: the respect for the environment. Within the Sierra de Arteaga in Coahuila, Mexico, Casa Oyameles is an exemplary of tradition and sustainability. It incorporates materials like sillar and red brick, to ensure insulation properties and resonation with its surroundings.This project represents only a 3.5% area of the original terrain, preserving the diverse ecosystem, from small agaves to 100 year old pine trees.

When it comes to architecture competitions or freelance projects, Diego Sierra has mainly focused on small to medium scale projects, because that way he believes he can take the design to a higher level of detail. He specially enjoys taking into consideration the resolution of both constructive and functional aspects.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

The meaning of architecture should lie in its role as a service to the community. As architects, it is our job to carry that role. With so many socio-environmental challenges, the architect should be focused on trying to improve the quality of life of the people who inhabit or use their projects.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

Participating in contests means being constantly active, thinking, designing, and dreaming of new possibilities. Attempting to solve design challenges through contests speeds up thought processes and provides the space to be exceptionally creative.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions?

It’s an amazing opportunity to be creative without the pressure of designing something that is being paid for. Architecture competitions keep the job fun.

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