In establishing their UNNO digital gallery the founders aimed to create an exhibition space that can be visited irrespective of where you are and what time it is – and that demonstrates the sheer potential of Latin-American designers who all draw on a seam of traditional artisanship which goes back thousands of years old. Their backgrounds as architects and artists are sufficient to qualify Maria Dolores Uribe and Laura Abe Vettoretti for an interdisciplinary approach to curation. And at a time when the world is gripped by a global pandemic the platform is completely geared towards a digital experience even though both the designers’ works and their location exist in reality. The location is “32 General Prim”, once an apartment building in Mexico City erected back in 1906. Designed by inter alia architect Manuel Gorozpe in an eclectic style, the building combines various features of architectural styles from classic columns to artful ornamentation. In 2014, the building was modernized by Alberto Kalach, an architect keen to retain as much as possible of the magic charm exuded by the somewhat dilapidated old mansion with its broad staircases, high ceilings, wrought iron balustrades and lavish greenery. For the roof extension, Kalach also realised a greenhouse that channels a lot of daylight into the floors and provides ideal conditions for the greenery.
A restoration project that went by the name of “Proyecto Público Prim” devoted itself to protecting and reviving this mythical place and combined it with the neighboring building “30 General Prim”, likewise built back in the day of dictator Porfirio Diaz, transforming the two into a culture center. Now the buildings provide ample space for studios, exhibitions and exclusive events. The spacious inner courtyard offered the ideal location for the works of Bandido Studio, Ian Felton, Cesar Nunez and a selection of the curators’ own works. Illuminated through a square light well in the ceiling the latter creates a fascinating play of light and shadow for the design items. Uribe and Vettoretti aim with UNNO to present contemporary design that cites and honors Latin America’s rich history and myths without simply copying existing forms. As a result, traditional crafts and the ideas of contemporary designers are combined in the exhibits to form a new unity. The materials employed demonstrate a strong reference to nature and include lava stone, metal, sand and precious stones but also ceramic and marble through to dyeing using natural pigments. Sporting geometric shapes and lent a function the objects effortlessly bridge the gap between art and design and open up a new perspective – whether as a luminaire, a paravent or a side table.