Late Fall 2010 was quite a whirlwind of international conferences for us, and I’m just a little late blogging about our wonderful experiences! With the Winter Solstice and Christmas just behind us, and the New Year looming ever near, it’s still better late than never!
During the past three months I’ve presented the Greenroofs.com “2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” in Mexico City, Singapore, and most recently Vancouver, B.C. To get the ball rolling, I’ll start with our October outing with detailed coverage of the awesome tours coming in February:
We had the pleasure of attending the WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress – El Congreso Mundial de Azoteas Verdes México 2010 – in Mexico’s hustling and busting capital on October 7-9. Mexico City is the longest continuously-inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and sits atop the lake basin where the Mexica Indians founded their empire in 1325 and were defeated by the Spanish under Hernan Cortes two centuries later. The city lies in an immense, volcano-dotted valley, encompassing a population approaching 23 million.
According to our taxi diver, the road we travelled in and out from the Mexico City International Airport is the 700-year old “La Calzada de Guadalupe” which was a means to cross the river underneath. It was then called Typac which meant sanctuary in Aztec.
The first time this event (and any other major living architecture event for that matter) was held in a Latin American city, the WGIN Mexico City Congress was hosted by the Mexican Association for Green Roofing – AMENA by its acronym in Spanish – together with the Government of Mexico City. And as you may know, Tanya Müller Garcia is the president of AMENA (and Vice President of the World Green Infrastructure Network – WGIN), and the main person responsible for this highly successful conference! Aramis and I were extremely impressed at many facets.
First of all, I believe many people have a wrong impression of Mexico City – in fact we had a few people early on commenting that they thought it would be unsafe (of course, you have be situationally aware of your surroundings everywhere, regardless). We found quite the opposite to be true, plus we were pleasantly surprised that although it’s the largest city in the Americas and the world’s third largest metropolitan area by population, after Seoul and Tokyo, the areas of Mexico City we visited were very clean with lots of greenery, including many public parks, large and small.
In fact, we had the beautiful public municipal Alameda Park, a green garden with paved paths and decorative fountains and statues, just across the street from our hotel. And everywhere we went, people were extremely friendly and accommodating, too.
As far as the Congress went, Tanya Müller and company is to be commended on the high quality of planning and execution – the location and layout was spectacular – all it took was one elevator ride in our five-star Hilton Hotel Mexico City Reforma (with its own rooftop gardens) to get to the Session Halls and the Exhibitor Trade Show area.
And they had a huge turnout, young and old alike with many students – there were over 750 people in attendance – not bad for the first of its kind in a “new” market! Of course, greenroofs and greenwalls aren’t new to Latin America, they’ve been developing along with the rest of North America. In fact, our Top 10 List of Hot Trends for 2010 has “The Greening of Latin America” in the #5 position!
The Conference had an incredibly lovely Opening Cocktail Reception on the intensive greenroof rooftop garden at the Antiguo Palacio de Ayuntamiento in the Plaza de la Constitución, a beautiful colonial-era Town Hall in the zocalo, or main plaza, located in the historic center where we were greeted by the “Grupo Huehuel Tlahtolli Centro de tradición antigua Teotihuacán” – the native group Huehuel Tlahtolli of the Teotihuacán, dressed in full regalia.
Their eloquent spokesperson addressed the ubiquitous developmental practices so common in large urban centers and how we as community members of our planet must come together to further develop sustainable building practices. He commended the government of Mexico City and AMENA for promoting green infrastructure such as greenroofs and walls, and we then enjoyed a variety of traditional ceremonial dances and music under a cool, breezy, and starry night. Mexico City officials spoke about their commitment to greening the city and their “Plan Verde” or Green Plan for its citizens, and then everyone relaxed and mingled in the party atmosphere. It was also very nice seeing Tanya’s mom again (we met her last year in Toronto) and meeting her lovely sister, too, seen below with Manfred Köhler, President of WGIN, and friend.
The next morning’s Opening Plenary was packed beyond measure as the Mexico City Mayor, Lic. Marcelo Ebrard, welcomed us all to his city. He is quite a visionary leader speaking to his commitment of improving our communities, and how we need a healthy relationship with the environment to guarantee sustainability for the next decades. How do we do this? By reducing our CO2 emissions and oil dependency, increasing recycling and related activities and by greening our cities. Other dignitaries along with WGIN delegates from around the world spoke as well and there were tons of television and newspaper reporters and cameras flashing – very high profile coverage!
We had a very large selection of wonderful speakers with a decidedly Latin focus – although our non-Spanish speaking colleagues had no problem with the language since the sessions were held in both English and Spanish, with simultaneous translations (the glossy programs were in both languages as well).
The Congress had two tracks (Aramis went to one, I the other), which made it easier to choose, yet it was still hard as it was fascinating to hear about all these buildings being integrated with greenery throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America. And there were so many awesome presentations! There were tons of people to assist your every need, and it was very easy to be a speaker and moderator:
The main Latin America themes focused on the need for continued research and monitoring, information sharing, and overall collaborative efforts to further informing the public and increasing awareness of greenroofs and greenwalls. It was great that there were speakers from the majority of all the Latin American countries – and each shared their successes and struggles with stories of design, trial and error, and in some cases, community involvement.
Just a few of our favorite presentations included: “A Green Habitat for the City of Mexicali” by Javier Sonsosian Aguilar (architect) which showed a variety of stunning colorful and sinuous greenroofed structures, many resembling the earth sheltered organic designs of Swiss architect Peter Vetch and undulating forms of Catalonia architect Antoní Gaudí, with a variety of cool features like periscopes, earth tubes and wind turbines; “Roof Gardens Over Steel” by Claudia Harari (founder and director of Harari Landscape Architecture) which was a fascinating case study of collaboration and the trials and tribulations of greening over the irregular geometric shape of the sharp steel roof of the Museo de Acero Horno 3 (Steel Museum Oven 3) in Monterrey, Mexico; “New Green Strategies – From Outdoor to Indoor” by Andreas Schmidt (founder of indoorlandscaping) – see photo above – which talked about the need, and continued popularity, of interior greenwalls (also being done a lot in Chile by Ignacio Espoz of Latin Green) and other interior plantscapes; and “Sustainable Buildings, LEED Certification and Green Roofs: A Natural Venture” by Cesar Ulises Treviño, President of the Green Building Council Mexico which informed us of the current situation here.
Not all the presentations were connected to Latin America, however. We also had informative international updates about research, greening policies, and technical experiences from: Joaquín Sicilia from Sicilia y Asociados Arquitectura and Julián Briz from the Universidád Politécnica de Madrid and Isabel de Felipe from the Ciudad Universitaria in Madrid of Spain; Andrew Clements from Green Roofs Greece of Greece; Matthew Dillon from Green Roofs Australia of Australia; Suresh Kumar Billore from Vikram University of India; Josh Wells (who was a last minute stand in for Clayton Rugh, who couldn’t make the trip) of Xero Flor America of the U.S.; Sachiko Kikuchi from Meiji University of Japan, FranÃ§ois Lassalle from ADIVET “Association des Toitures Vegetales of France”; Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities of Canada; and a very large contingency from Germany including the aforementioned Andreas Schmidt, Manfred Köhler, President of WGIN and Vice Dean of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Applied Sciences Neubrandedburg, Olga Gorbachevskaya, Hendrikje Schreiter, and Susanne Herfort, all from the Institute for Agricultural and Urban Ecological Projects associated with Humboldt University, Eckart Kramer from the School of Sustainable Development Eberswalde (FH), and Angelika Kurz, architect.
One extremely cool thing was that AMENA had set up live streaming of one of the presentation tracks with a company called COMUNICASION, for all the world to see! And COMUNICASION produced several videos of the event (in Spanish), which you can see below. Tanya is interviewed and you can see the Opening Plenary and dignitaries, including the Mayor of Mexico City, here:
Adjacent to the session rooms, the Exhibit Hall had numerous new and interesting companies showcasing their products – plants, complete greenroof systems, individual components, professional services, and there were quite a few modular offerings as well.
The Congress offered well appointed snacks, beverages and generous (and delicious) lunches, too – just one of the ways to network among our peers. We were very pleased to reconnect with several people from last year’s CitiesAlive Conference in Toronto, including the wonderful Spanish couple Julián Briz and Isabel de Felipe, seen below, and Ignacio Espoz of Santiago, Chile.
We made several new friends as well, including the fantastic Spanish architect Joaquín Sicilia, bubbly Chilean architect and Vice-President of the Botanic Society of Chile, Vicky Rojas, Colombian architect Andrés Ibáñez Gutiérrez (below with Aramis) and super-friendly Mexican greenroofers Roberto Huber Romo and Oswaldo Zurita (they do greenwalls, too!).
Remember I said people were friendly? The consierge recommend a fantastic new restaurant a couple of blocks away on the second day – Spuntino, Alameda, owned by a wonderful Argentine-born U.S. citizen named Moises Drijanski. The food, wine selection, and atmosphere was utterly fantastic! This is their third restaurant, and they’re known for an ecclectic mix of offerings, but in particular for their mixed grill and a variety of steaks from Argentina and the U.S., and pizzas! If you’re in the area, you must visit them at Desarollo Puerta Alameda, Independencia esq. (corner of) Luis Moya, Mexico City (5518-1107).
The closing cocktail had an Indian flair with a variety of local cuisine and music to inspire us to attend the 2011 WGIN World Green Roof Congress in Indore City, India on October 31 – November 2, where the focus will be on “Green Technology for Green Roof, Green Home and Rain Harvesting to Combat for a Sustainable Future.” Professor Suresh Billore from WGIN India, below right, invites all of us to join in the education, networking and fun next year!
From a social standpoint, we saw lots of old friends and colleagues and mingled at several opportunities, and the tours were very well planned with a huge comfortable bus – the large selection of greenroofs and walls were very varied and extremely fascinating! And each site tour guide had intimate, in-depth knowledge about each project, which made each experience even more exceptional. It’s great to see first hand examples of Mexico City’s greening efforts from municipal, corporate, and grass-roots leaders.
The WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress was a resounding success and important for many reasons. Our industry continues to grow, even flourish, in this economy and we must continue to push for more government and private support. Mexico City is a leader with both, and it’s clear that many other Latin American nations are following suit. Brazil and Mexico have the highest greenroof and greenwall numbers, but Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Colombia are quickly following suit, with most other Latin American countries involved as well. AMENA and WGIN made great headway by offering continuing support to these national members and I think we can expect to see great continued work and success coming from many of these members!
One of the world’s great cosmopolitan capitals, Mexico City offers visitors so many wonderful opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, dining, business, and now, greening! Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long enough to travel much except for the fun, day long bus tour, which I’ll talk about later.
I have to say that the two WGIN (World Green Infrastructure Network) World Green Roof Congresses that we’ve attended, both last year’s CitiesAlive! in Toronto (read my CitiesAlive! “˜09 Day Tour & Evening Fiesta and The Inaugural CitiesAlive! – Seeds of Success posts for more info, as well as Christine’s Reflections on CitiesAlive! from Christine Thuring) and this one, are an extremely good deal in terms of conference pricing – only $250 which includes two days of excellent speakers, lunch, snacks, the inaugural cocktail, closing cocktail, and the guided greenroof and greenwall tour.
In conclusion, we enjoyed our visit to Mexico City immensely and wish to thank Tanya and AMENA for their wonderful the hospitality! Make sure to visit AMENA where you can learn all about what’s going on in Mexico, as well as see some beautiful photos of the WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress – click on both Galería banners.
On a side note, on our way back home we were also impressed with the final departure lounge in Terminal 2 at the Mexico City International Airport, designed with many sustainable elements by SPACE. Look at these cool openings in the ceiling which welcome natural daylight inside the lounge, seen above.
That’s it for now, the next post is about The International Skyrise Greenery Conference in gorgeous Singapore!
I hope everyone has a fun time ringing in in the New Year tonight safely! Here’s to a Happy & Green 2011!
~ Linda V.