Living in the Diagram

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The Colonia Federal neighborhood in Mexico City presents a striking octagonal urban form. Spread out over 83 hectares adjacent to the international airport, it is home to some 12,000 people. This paper examines the origins of the neighborhood in the city’s post-revolutionary zeitgeist, and its development over time amid the vicissitudes of legal battles and infrastructure delays. It further considers changes that have transformed the neighborhood over the past two decades, including upzoning, an aging population, and a growing spate of demolitions to replace single-family homes with apartment buildings. Finally, the paper takes a close look at the subtle navigational affect induced by the neighborhood’s diagrammatic form. In the end, despite its extraordinary design, Colonia Federal has developed into a surprisingly ordinary neighborhood, one that began with lofty ambitions for the creation of an instantaneous utopia, but grew through the incremental, adaptive, make-do urban process typical of Mexico City.

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