Workshop Architects: The balance between history and modernity

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Veronica Garibay
Veronica Garibay
Verónica Garibay Saldaña is a Mexican columnist, communications major, and poetry enthusiast. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

As of 2021, Workshop has been designing and developing houses in Mérida for over five years. Many of their most iconic projects, which you’ve likely stumbled upon on social media, are located in the different Centro neighborhoods of the city.

Their plans to start creating, however, are almost 10 years in the making.

Casa Hannah, by Workshop Architects. Photo: Tamara Uribe

Fabián Gutiérrez met Francisco Bernés while they were both studying architecture in UADY, the state university of Yucatán. After spending some time abroad in Austria, and through their shared influences, they started designing together. 

“My brother had a real estate agency, and he worked a lot with foreigners downtown. Our first client, when we came back from the exchange, was precisely a house downtown, two blocks away from Mejorada. We didn’t take any of the construction work, only dealt with the design. But it felt great to be trusted that way, especially since we were just starting out.”

Casa Maca, by Workshop Architects. Photo: Manolo R Solís

They kept growing through small jobs — painting facades, doing kitchens, bathroom redesigns, and small renovations through that same real estate company. In 2012 they met their first clients for both design and construction. Similar to their first experience, they were foreigners interested in owning a home downtown. 

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“We didn’t even have an office at that point,” laughs Fabián. “But we were willing to give them all the time we had available. They trusted us a lot, precisely because of that. They were our first full clients. We finished the San Teodoro home almost 10 years ago now, but we are very good friends still.”

Casa Huolpoch, by Workshop Architects. Photo: Tamara Uribe

In 2014 they consolidated the company, and in 2016 partnered with architect Isabel Bargas and engineer Alejandro Bargas. Today, Workshop has a construction department as well as one dedicated to interior design. And around 80% of their projects are still downtown.

“It’s a sort of domino effect,” says Fabián. “You create something in a particular place, with a particular style and people start identifying you with it. And we really do love working in the Centro. Restoration is one of the main reasons I studied architecture, I’ve always loved history. And there’s something wonderful about working with a property full of secrets and possibilities. You never truly know what a home is like until you truly get involved.”

Studiolo, by Workshop Architects. Photo: Tamara Uribe

The first project they did which generated a big social media projection was the House that Sings, which they finished in 2018. Since then, they have received many nominations and awards, both for projects and interior designs. Fabián thinks that their 360º development model, from start to finish, has helped them consolidate their style.

“We think of it as modern Yucatecan,” says Fabián. “We like to highlight the differences between colonial and historical styles by contrast with modern designs. And we try to integrate the freshness and minimalism of the peninsula through the materials we use. But we also enjoy jumping out of the box and using color, which you don’t see as often around Mérida.”

Studiolo, by Workshop Architects. Photo: Tamara Uribe

Outside of the residential sphere, Workshop has worked in several commercial and cultural projects, which have achieved national and international projection. They hope to continue developing interesting and functional buildings which blend the classical style of the city with their own modern twists.

“Our main goal is to create projects we’re proud of,” says Fabián. “We want to reflect emotions through something as tangible as a building. Feelings of security, comfort, and even happiness; create atmospheres that convey peace and tranquility, always honoring the environment in which we develop.”

Follow Workshop on Instagram, or visit their website.

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