Beginning in 2008, the World Design Organization has selected a new World Design Capital every two years, which recognizes a city for their effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural, and environmental development. This year Mexico City is officially the sixth World Design Capital, and it is the first city in the Americas to receive this honor.
Teams including designers and artists, politicians and political scientists, and even AI experts collaborate to find innovative ways to improve the city. Many of their proposals have been refined through citizen engagement and feedback, which has been crucial in the final designs. Initiatives have focused on transportation, the visibility of refugee communities, pedestrian and bike rights, kid-friendliness of the city, and air quality. One of the projects turned city streets into play spaces in poor neighborhoods, and another created vertical gardens to clean the air.
Philanthropic investors have also played a major role in Mexico City’s development. Carlos Slim, a Mexican engineer and billionaire who once ranked as the richest person in the world, contributed in a major way to the city’s art scene. He founded one of its most renowned museums, Museo Soumaya, which is named for his late wife, Soumaya Domit. The building, finished in 2011 and designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, is covered in 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles that combine to create the uniquely twisted hour-glass silhouette. The collection inside the museum ranges from Rodin sculptures, to Diego Rivera, Monet, Renoir, and Degas, and features more than 66,000 works spanning 30 centuries of art. All its operating costs are covered by Slim’s fortune, including free admission 365 days a year.
From museums and art, to architecture and urban planning, this vibrant city has established its place in the world as a Design Capital and a hub of inspiration and creativity.
Nestled beside the Colorado River and Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve, just minutes from downtown Austin, you will find the 14-acre site of Laguna Gloria. As part of The Contemporary Austin, Laguna Gloria offers a unique experience, including events, community programs, a sculpture garden featuring internationally acclaimed artists, a 100-year old Italian villa, and an art school with classes for children and adults. The Contemporary Austin ‘aims to integrate art into the rich cultural fabric of the community,’ and is the only museum in Austin solely focused on contemporary artists. Laguna Gloria is a space dedicated to bridging art and nature!
The land now known as Laguna Gloria has a rich history. Previously owned by Stephen F. Austin, it was purchased by Clara Driscoll and her husband Hal Sevier, editor of the Austin American, in 1914. After honeymooning in Italy, Clara had their home built in two years, inspired by the villas of Lake Como. She was an avid gardener, and spent years of her life designing the terraced gardens that remain at Laguna Gloria to this day. At the time, the home was a socialite’s paradise, hosting politicians and dignitaries, as well as lavish parties where guests arrived by boat. In 1943, Clara donated Laguna Gloria to the Texas Fine Arts Association.
Named the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, this vibrant location currently includes sculptures from world renowned artists. A current list of pieces is available on their website (here), and includes sculptures from Ai Wei Wei, Carol Bove, Ryan Gander, Elmgreen & Dragset, Terry Allen, Tom Friedman, Wangechi Mutu, and many more. With a diverse ecology and rich with natural beauty, this is a striking setting to see these incredible sculptures.
Laguna Gloria officially broke ground in the spring of 2018 on Phase I of the Master Plan Transformation. This includes creating additional community gathering spaces, a café and visitor center, an art and design shop, and additional restroom and locker facilities. These additions will ‘shape Laguna Gloria into an extraordinary space to discover works of art framed by the vibrant natural landscape.’ Additionally, in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Laguna Gloria is undertaking an Invasive Species Removal Project, which will preserve heritage trees, restore the ecological health of the land, and encourage native plants to thrive.
Laguna Gloria is open to visitors seven days a week, and more information about visiting can be found here.