National Urban Design Awards — 2020 Recipient | Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

National Urban Design Awards — 2020 Recipient

Topographic Urban Expansion
Award Category: 
Student Projects

Lead: Qiwei Song (University of Toronto)
Completion Date: May 2018

As the population of Mexico City continues to grow, multiple factors push development and irregular settlements to peripheral hillsides of the city. The current informal urbanization pattern lacks infrastructural provisions and open space—which further increases social inequality. This project introduces a pre-emptive approach—a topographic landscape strategy that acts as an open space armature for future development on hillsides of the city. By connecting and planting hydraulic buffers along steep slopes and introducing topographic interventions in connected bands of open space, the project brings social, ecological, economic, and cultural amenities that support and sustain the inevitability of the informal growth pattern.

Jury Comment(s): 

"A thesis project which exemplifies the interdisciplinary, problem-solving nature of urban design. It proposes a beautiful, topographic solution to informal development on the hillsides around Mexico City. The design concepts convincingly offer social, ecological, economic, and cultural benefits to the community."

"We're impressed by the extent of analysis and intervention strategies. Whether the proposed landscape armature could survive the pressure of informal urbanization is uncertain—absent a concerted local political or social organization. Nevertheless, this speculative exploration is intriguing, well-executed, and overall credible."

Jury members

Click for full version: 
Context of the city


Timeline of the development in Mexico City


Hillside informal settlements example around the city

PHOTO: Johnny Miller

It is a study of 6 hills that have demonstrated urbanization pattern on hillsides and they are ranked to show the possibility of further urban sprawl.


Comparison of the 6 cases


View of Social Node