Pablo Landa is an anthropologist. He earned his PhD from Princeton (2015) and his B.A. from Yale (2005). His work explores the relationship among architecture, social dynamics and memory. He has studied topics such as the past an present of social housing in Mexico, migration in various urban contexts, the history of community organizing in Mexico City, vernacular architecture in northern Mexico and the historical memory of Monterrey as an industrial city. His projects materialize as archives, museum exhibitions, books, community-based projects and research workshops.
Landa’s doctoral dissertation is an ethnography of Mexico City’s Santa Fe housing project, designed by Mario Pani in the 1950s. While conducting field research, he also studied a collection of photographs and documents preserved by his daughter and led their transformation into an archive, which was deposited at Tec de Monterrey in 2012. Using materials from this and other archives, as well as work by contemporary artists and photographers, he curated the exhibition Mario Pani, architecture in process (MARCO 2014 and Museo Amparo 2016), a retrospective with an anthropological focus.
In 2016, Landa was the curator of Mexico’s pavilion in the Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibition mapped social and participatory architecture in the country; it was developed though a collaborative process with architecture studios, universities and local communities all over Mexico. The ambitious program of workshops, seminars, lectures, tours implemented together with the pavilion gave visibility of a tradition in Mexican architecture that had until then been underrepresented. It also facilitated new collaborations and projects.
Many of Landa’s later projects emerged from the Venice pavilion. Among them are the handbook collection Poder sobre el espacio (Laboratorio para la Ciudad 2018) and Taller Nuevo Norte. The handbooks systematize various successful community organizing initiatives by Mexico City collectives. Nuevo Norte activates collaborations among migrants and architects, designers and social scientists through field research research and project development workshops. Together with Sofía Garfias, Landa also developed Puerto Abierto (Fundación Femsa 2020), a program that promotes actions in favor of migrants and refugees by artists and cultural institutions.
In 2017, Landa started studying the history of the Monterrey Foundry through archives, historical photographs and the narratives of its workers. La ciudad que construyó Fundidora (Fototeca Nuevo León 2018) and Las Torres de Monterrey (Fototeca Nuevo León 2019), two open-air exhibitions at Fundidora Park, explore the impact of the factory in the city’s physical and symbolic configuration. A third exhibition, Memoria de Acero (Fototeca Nuevo León 2019), considers the ways in which archives and first-person accounts of the past shape Monterrey’s identity. In parallel to this show, Landa coordinated the creation of a Memorial to the Foundry’s workers (Fototeca Nuevo León 2019) through a collaborative process with workers that resulted in a visual representation of a 1971 accident in which seventeen workers died.
Since 2018, Landa leads Arquitectura Popular del Noreste, in which photographers, architects and social scientists collaborate in the documentation of vernacular landscapes and architecture in northern Mexico. The book with the same title (CONARTE 2020) presents the findings of two years of research in the form of a non-fiction graphic novel. This publication offers reflections on the possible interactions among photographs, academic arguments and mass media. Landa has also explored this interaction in a series of architecture comics made in collaboration with emergent artists and the design studios Landa + Martínez y Landa Suberville.
Landa is the author of a book of historical chronicles, Monterrey en el espejo (Fondo Editorial Nuevo León 2011) and of a Monterrey architecture guide (Arquine 2019). The guide offers an interpretation of the city’s architecture and urban layout as part of a historical process of industrialization and the reconversion of industrial infrastructures. These books and other publications in magazines and blogs build a foundation for other projects and for dialogues on the future of the city.