Designer : Qiwei Song

Winner : 2nd Runner Up, Disruptive Design

As Mexico City continues to increase its population, geologic, economic, social, and historical factors and constraints are pushing developments to the hillsides of the city’s peripheries. Most of these developments are self-built irregular settlements.

Because of the incompletion and unsustainability of current informal urbanization model on hillsides, people frequently lack basic services, such as water supply, sanitation, accessibility and other amenities. Six case study sites are analysed and ranked to find the priority site to be further urbanized soon. Among them, Cerro el Pino would be the priority to be intervened because of its good access to public transportation and services.

Based on current development model, irregular settlements will further creep up and cover the mountain, lack of trees put this place at high risk of mudslides during the rainy season. People need to pay a quarter of their salary relying on trucks and donkeys to transport water due to poor water supply. All these issues plague hillside neighborhoods and make it inconvenient and unsuitable to live.

In response to this existing informal urbanization pattern lacking infrastructural provision and open space which increases social inequality, the project introduces a topographic landscape framework that acts as an open space armature, manages informal growth and addresses needs of people in existing and future neighbourhoods through insertion of social-economic and ecological amenities. This approach is viable, innovative and ecologically responsible.

Inside Down is part of a bigger and more complex conceptual approach, which is about exploring, understanding, and intervening in the preservation of our history for future generations. The architectural studio SnOhetta already started with this kind of design intervention with The Artic seed vault in Svalbard, (the worlds largest, secure seed- storage, together with the Arctic World Archive, a digital vault of the worlds history and culture) leading Inside Down as a continuation project which holds the same purpose but with a different approach, resource and execution.

Inside Down started as a conceptual project, a local intervention which aims to inspire people from all around the world -architects, scientific, researchers, to all kind of habitants- and have them contemplate the value of the worlds resources and history.

However, this kind of intervention holds a wide range of approaches, which makes it become part of a bigger project: a global intervention conformed by local and specified interventions which its only purpose is to preserve humanity. Therefore, I believe this project could be commercially viable, however, due to its magnitude,approach and objective, it becomes more of a public intervention, making it difficult to be built without the consent and participation of bigger organisations -World Archives, Norway National Archives, Church of Norway, etc.

As a design prototype, The strategy could be applied to other mountains in Mexico City. It requires collective efforts and collaboration among international organizations, local communities and governmental authorities. Existing Irregular settlements in unsafe lands will be relocated.


The public space authority AEP (Autoridad del Espacio Publico) needs to take over the implementation of the topographic interventions. And the infrastructure parts could be sponsored by CONUGUA and the World Bank and be installed by the company Isla Urbana. Residents would be involved in building productive farmland and the landscape to support the maintenance as well.

This project introduces a pre-emptive approach, a topographic landscape strategy that acts as an open space armature for future irregular development on the hillsides of Mexico City. It proposes social, ecological, economic, and cultural amenities that support and sustain the inevitability of informal growth pattern by connecting and planting hydraulic buffers along steep slopes and introducing topographic interventions in connected bands of open space.

Through connecting and planting hydraulic buffers along steep slopes and introducing topographic interventions in connected belts of open space, this piece of landscape takes simple moves that relate terrain, water, vegetation and people. Along intersection of green belts and major roads, sharp different feelings are experienced along various nodes.

They provide water and food resource, in the meantime conserve the environmentally sensitive and open space. This project strives to find a pre-emptive way to support and sustain the inevitability of future informal growth and create an armature system that would be beneficial to self-built neighborhoods and the mountain ecosystem in the long run.

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