Mexico City is currently one of the hottest centers of global design, and its forward-thinking and civically minded local scene recently earned the Mesoamerican metropolis the title of 2018 World Design Capital from the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. Of course, that sounds like quite an honor, but in practice it means the Mexican capital will be host to a massive biennial that will bring together design professionals from across the globe for a series of exhibitions, conferences, and galas.

Photo: Pia Riverola

In the build up to this historical occasion, the Mexico City gallery Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura has taken on an ambitious multi-year project entitled MXCD 01 intended to spotlight the past, present and future of Mexican design. “The series dissects design as a force for everyday transformation,” Archivo explains on their website. “A tool that can solve problems and generate positive change, but also the source of contemporary malaise and a resource that — when poorly handled — can perpetuate disparities.”

Photo: Pia Riverola

On display right now, the first installation dedicated to the city’s present is built around three overriding themes that encapsulate the spirit of Mexico City’s contemporary design culture: Informal Inventors, New Craftsmanship, and Beyond Function. Spread across three sections, the exhibition brings 21st century artesanos like Juan José Nemer, Mauricio Álvarez, and Ricardo Casa together with cutting edge architecture firm PALMA, who provided a provocative floor installation made from recycled plastic “beach sand.”

Photo: Luis Young

With its rigorously conceptual curation, MXCD 01 clearly intends to go beyond traditional notions of design and functionality and into a more abstract reflection on the intersection of aesthetics, politics, and civic identity. With such a potent combination of cutting edge theory and praxis, it’s no wonder that Mexico City had the honor of becoming the first World Design Capital in the Americas.