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Architecture

The Design Diaries
- Max von Werz

Design Diaries

  • Words Allison Reiber DiLiegro
  • Date 05 July 2021

Born in Montreal, raised in New York and Munich, trained in London, and based in Mexico City, architect Max von Werz is a student of the world.

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Galería OMR in Mexico City

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Interior of Casa Cieneguita

His work reflects this dynamic upbringing, with influences from Modernist architects like Geoffrey Bawa, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Lina Bo Bardi melding with regional inspiration, such as a traditional Bavarian country home or the contemporary architecture scene in Mexico City.

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Baja Club in La Paz, Mexico

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The 1910 mission-style villa was preserved

Von Werz’s latest project, Baja Club on the Baja California peninsula, brings this unique melange of influences to life. The hotel, developed in collaboration with interior designers Jaune, is housed in a 20th-century Spanish Colonial-style villa that connects to a new four-story annex via a concrete spiral staircase. As von Werz tells us, “the project aims to give a modern twist on Mexico’s rich tradition of colors, textures, and craftsmanship.” By using local materials in a fresh, streamlined manner, “we were able to anchor the project in its locale and tie together the identity of the old and new components.”

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The spiral staircase connects the new annex to the original hacienda

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Concept model of Baja Club

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Max von Werz

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Concrete model of Casa del Lago, a proposed public space in Mexico City

“I love the collaborative aspect of creating architecture. There is so much to be learned from all of the different specialists that get involved in any building project. And when you get a good synergy going the team becomes greater than the sum of its parts, which really benefits the final product.”

Claim to Fame

Max von Werz Architects contributed a collaborative piece to the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Accolades

Baja Club was named a finalist in the 17th annual Hospitality Design Awards.

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Galeria OMR in Mexico City

Design Hotels Member

Baja Club

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The original Bavarian barn dates back to the 18th century

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Single family house in Pfifferloh, Germany

Do you see yourself as a dreamer or a realist?

I’d say as an architect I am 25% dreamer and 75% realist. Of course, it’s important to think big and imagine a better future, but it takes pragmatism and persistence to make those a reality.

Do you have any recent cultural discoveries that you would like to share?

My cultural discovery during the pandemic was the absolute joy of rewatching movies and rereading books. One of my go-to’s has become Akira Kurosawa’s filmography. I think in challenging times we yearn for the familiar as a kind of nostalgic comfort food, and despite our culture’s obsession with novelty, repeat experiences allow us to delve deeper and discover nuances that we missed the first time around.

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Casa Cieneguita, a private home in the countryside near San Miguel de Allende

When do you feel most productive?

Most of my work week goes into putting out fires so it’s really on the weekend, when my phone stops ringing and the emails stop pouring in, that I get into my zone and can lose myself in what I really love doing. Of course, it’s nice to occasionally switch off as well, but I feel people overrate the whole work-life balance thing. Sometimes you just need to push yourself a bit more if you want to create something extraordinary.

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Rooftop bar at Baja Club

Walking or flying?

Walking

Round or angular?

Angular

Sunset or Sunrise?

Sunset

Landscaped or Zen garden?

Landscaped

What are your dreams for the future?

My hope is that our experiences over the last year help us overcome our tribal mentality and realize that as humans we all share the same boat.

Who are your sustainability heroes?

My sustainability heroes are the many professionals who are currently championing the adaptive reuse of old and obsolete buildings as a form of conservation of resources. Demolition should become an absolute last resort. As the Italian post-war architect Carlo Scarpa once put it: “Our duty is to give buildings a new lease of life so that they may be able to live today and tomorrow.”

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For Galería OMR, von Werz preserved and reworked a brutalist building

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An extension houses the library and offices

What have you changed in your life in the past year to be more sustainable?

Like most, I cut down on flying due to the pandemic. While it wasn’t so much a voluntary lifestyle change, of course, it did help me realize how avoidable air travel often is and appreciate the virtues of local travel all the more.

What do you think is the future of travel?

I think we will increasingly choose simplicity over luxury. Or rather, simplicity and authenticity will be our new luxury.

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Private home in the countryside outside of San Miguel de Allende

Black & white or color? 

Color

Spotify or LP?

LP

Vertical or horizontal?

Horizontal

Photography by: César Béjar, Rory Gardiner, Florian Holzherr, Vicky Reyes, Andrés Carnalla, Rodrigo Chapa, Enrique Macias

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