Memorial Colegio Rébsamen 19-S

Competition, First place.

CDMX, México. 2020-2022.

On September 19th, 2017, there was an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 on the Richter
scale, which left behind a large amount of human and material losses, not only
in Mexico City, but also in other states of the country. Of all the cases of building
collapses, that of the Enrique Rébsamen School came to public attention in a
particular way, due to the fact that 19 girls and boys and 7 adults lost their lives and
23 more injured people were added. The parents and relatives of the victims were
given the task of investigating until the last consequences, the real reasons for the
collapse that ended so many lives.
Thanks to their management, on November 12th 2019, the National Human Rights
Commission issued a recommendation, in which various corruption acts were
pointed out, and among other things, requested the construction of a memorial to
commemorate the tragedy.
Our proposal consisted in configuring an enclosure in the form of an Hortus
Conclusus -archetypal form that represents the idea of paradise- in which, not only
could be a space for contemplation, but also a place where the rituals of gathering
and play were evoked. Recalling the lessons of Aldo van Eyck, “… the real third
is not something that happens to one person or another person separately and a
neutral world containing all things, but something that happens in a dimension only
accessible to both. The in-between acquiring form.”1. That is the reason for the pond
to be a space able to be inhabited, because the stones lying on the water allow the
visitor to walk on them and thus interact with the 26 stelae made of volcanic stone
and marble, which represent each of the victims.
The enclosure with a circular outline, which is surrounded by two rows of magnolias
and low vegetation, in turn contains another series of circular lines, which are
configuring small thresholds around the pond. Based on the idea that a public space
is safer as long as its elements do not represent a visual obstruction and with the
aim of making it inclusive, accessible and with a gender perspective, the idea of
the construction of a raised ring was proposed 2.80 mts. above ground level, with
the ability to delimit a sacred space that can be understood as the core of the
If on its outer facade the ring is proposed covered with wood planks, on its inner
face, the ring was made of steel plates, which functions to receive a series of
thoughts that the parents and relatives of the victims have proposed as desirable
to honor the memory of those who died in the tragedy. The messages were written
using a technique, which produces the sensation of depth in the text, while the
tubulars that make up the letters cast shadows on the inner ring of the memorial and
therefore change its appearance through their interaction with sunlight. Both the use
of wood and the solar interaction of the messages, communicates the idea of the
passage of time; the first through the concept of patina associated with the material
and the second through the concept of cyclical time.
The monument is the result of the effort made by the relatives of the victims in
coordination with the authorities, not only to honor the memory of their deceased,
but also to symbolize and communicate the presence of an active and committed
social force that lives within of each of us.

1.- van Eyck, A. (1962/2008). The Child, the City, and the
Artist. Amsterdam: Sun Publishers. P. 54.

Authors: Alejandro Guerrero | Andrea Soto | ATELIER ARS.

Project leader: Roberto González

Project Team: Isabel Castiello, Diego Monraz.

Site Architect: R-zero.

Project name: Memorial Colegio Rébsamen 19-S 

Competition. First prize. December 2020.

Project development: January 2021 – January 2022.  

Location: Alameda del Sur, México City, México.

Builder: SOBSE. 

Stone: Mármoles Covarrubias.

Wooden façade: Joselo. 

Photography: Albers Studio.