This study was both an international and an interdisciplinary
effort. Students of landscape architecture, urban planning, and
urban design worked with Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana
students of urban planning, political science, sociology, and architecture.
At the invitation of its Mayor, our collaborative studio studied
the municipality of Tepotzotlan and the possibilities for
its future development.
Tepotzotlan has a rich cultural, historic, religious, and
architectural heritage. It currently has large amounts of open space,
including agricultural land and the Sierra in the north of the municipality.
Due to its sensitive location in the growth ring of the Mexico
City metropolitan area, Tepotzotlan is experiencing intense
pressure to develop new housing and attract industry. With increased
population and industrialization, Tepotzotlan is experiencing
the ills of unregulated development: water shortages, traffic congestion,
pollution of rivers and streams, and informal housing development.
Our proposal envisions Tepotzotlan as the green municipality
in the Valley of Mexico. In addition, the proposal endeavors
to encourage the growth of the municipality as a prominent tourist
destination. The Alternative Municipal Plan that we are proposing
for Tepotzotlan was developed through an analysis of natural
and engineered regional systems. Four major systems were identified
as being pivotal in the growth of Tepotzotlan: transportation,
water, waste, and landscape. Our proposal is designed to sustainably
manage and accommodate the significant growth that Tepotzotlan
is destined to experience over the next 25 years.
The current transportation network poses a number of challenges
to the growth and quality of life of Tepotzotlan. Existing
conditions such as the hundreds of unregulated speed bumps and limited
public transportation make moving through Tepotzotlan challenging.
With only one main east-west road and one main north-south road,
traffic is terrible and mobility is restricted.
A key concept in this network is the separation of different types
of traffic. The proposed construction of two new main roads will
create a variety of options for major vehicular movement through
the municipality. Each of the main roads will be different in character,
responding to its adjacent landscape and program.
Providing public transportation is indispensable to alleviating
regional and local traffic congestion. A new express bus network
will put 80% of residents within a ten minute walk of a bus stop.
This bus network connects to a regional rail link. A bike network
provides people with alternative options for traveling shorter distances.
These transportation improvements will stimulate economic growth,
raise property values, and directly improve the quality of life
for everyone in Tepotzotlan.
Water is another key issue that will not only shape where development
can happen but whether it can happen. Water supply is a particularly
sensitive issue for Tepotzotlan because of its location within
the Valley of Mexico. It is no longer sustainable in the
Valley to depend on groundwater for potable water.
Our proposal for ensuring a stable supply of potable water that
does not deplete the aquifer is three-fold. The spine of our proposal
is first to collect rainfall from the Sierra in reservoirs, and
minimally treat it for use as potable water. Second, we propose
the reuse of storm water and sewage for water use in industry and
agriculture. Third, if the above sources are insufficient, we propose
the treatment of storm water and sewage to drinking water quality.
Sewage and Waste
Tepotzotlan, like much of the State of Mexico, neither
treats its sewage nor covers its sewers. The sewage situation is
compounded by the fact that regional sewage also flows through the
municipality in open channels; much of this flows unchecked into
water bodies. Tepotzotlan’s sewage facilities are clearly
inadequate for both its present population and its future development
By utilizing the water and nutrients from wastewater, our strategy
seeks to transform wastewater from a burden into a resource. Sewage
can be treated to create fertilizer, energy, and treatable water.
There are two major components to this proposed sewage treatment:
first, a pipe infrastructure and sewage treatment plant that collects
and treats both domestic sewage and industrial effluent. Second,
an open wetland treatment system (part of a larger green corridor
system) detains urban runoff and allows for cleansing, infiltration,
and flood control.
The solid waste situation is also at a critical juncture. The municipality
currently puts all of its solid waste into a mismanaged landfill
north of downtown. There is no official recycling policy, though
some informal recycling does occur. In addition, the landfill is
poorly located with respect to both highway access and potential
future development. The existing landfill should be capped. A proposed
integrated waste facility combines sewage treatment, a solid waste
landfill, and an energy generation plant on one highway accessible
The landscape plan is the municipal strategy for land conservation,
public recreational parks, natural resources management, and visual
quality planning. It analyzes and protects both the natural and
cultural landscape. There are five components to the landscape plan:
visual management, reforestation, Sierra recreation, Sierra edge,
and the green corridor network.
- The visual management plan is designed to guide the municipality
in making land use decisions to preserve and enhance the rich
visual landscapes of Tepotzotlan.
- The reforestation plan is a priority for the landscape plan
because Tepotzotlan has severe erosion in the Sierras and
along many streams. There are three types of restoration needed:
landslide areas, ecological areas that need reforestation to protect
stream corridors and sensitive habitat, and urban areas that need
reforestation to shade city streets and improve quality of life.
- The Sierra is one of Tepotzotlan’s most valuable
resources and requires active stewardship. The Sierra’s
Federal Park designation is not enough to protect it from further
degradation from erosion, informal housing, and overgrazing.
Sierra stewardship plan is conceived to expand the recreational
potential of the Sierras while guaranteeing its conservation.
- Due to the affordable housing shortage
in Mexico, self-housing (also known as informal sector housing)
has become a ubiquitous
feature of the Mexican landscape as well as an alternative to
expensive urban residences. Self-housing has already begun
encroach on the Sierra, posing a risk to the municipality’s
natural resources, water supply and Sierra ecology. The Sierra
edge plan proposes different strategies in order to assure the
integrity of the area of the Sierra Federal Park and prevent
- The green corridor network serves ecological,
aesthetic and civic needs. Ecologically, the network buffers
the Rio Hondo (the
major local river) from polluted urban runoff and flooding. Aesthetically,
the green corridor network serves as a visual connection to
Sierra and prevents the creation of a “linear city” throughout
the municipality. The civic benefits of the green corridor network
include public spaces for sports, general recreation,
events, picnicking, and public events.
By combining these 5 strategic plans, along with a policy of proper
stewardship of natural resources, the Sierra will be a source of
potable water, tourism income, a public open space amenity and an
attractive wildlife refuge. Education will be a key component of
active Sierra stewardship and a responsibility for the municipal
Our proposal for Tepotzotlan tackles many problems at the
regional scale, but also illustrates through five case studies and
a variety of detailed designs how our municipal proposal can be
implemented at the human scale. Each case study shows how housing,
landscape space, industry, commercial and institutional zones could
take form in specific areas. We propose a strategy that allocates
distinct areas for industrial and commercial expansion while using
the green corridor system to buffer residential areas from potentially
The first case study addresses the Rio Hondo, a currently abused
and neglected natural resource that forms the southeastern edge
of the municipality. The planning and design of the river has two
main components, both of which function ecologically while providing
recreational spaces. First is the construction of a series of wetlands
and marshes that will aid in the cleansing of water. Second is a
riparian restoration program that will aid in the filtering of sediments
and improve the wildlife habitats of the river.
The downtown case study addresses the quality of urban life in
three ways. First, through the development of new civic buildings;
second, an integrated system of landscape spaces; and third, improved
transportation and parking. We propose an infill strategy that will
densify the existing urban fabric. At the same time, we propose
protection of existing parks and stream corridors to form a downtown
landscape network that can link into the green corridor system.
The central plaza of Tepotzotlan, “The Plaza of the
Viceroy”, is characterized by many distinct spaces that serve
a multitude of often concurrent needs. The plaza is used on a daily
basis by residents but it is also used for special events, including
a weekend open air market. There is, however, a lack of sufficient
infrastructure to accommodate major downtown activities. The proposal
seeks to enhance this symbolic center of the municipality by increasing
the spatial cohesion of the plaza. It seeks to improve the plaza
without jeopardizing the area’s current character and dynamism.
Methodology and Implementation
The Tepotzotlan studio began with a site visit, in conjunction
with UAM students, in September 2004. The visit had two major goals:
first, to provide a first hand understanding of the site, its larger
context and major issues, and second, to begin to propose possible
projects. Throughout the semester, there was frequent collaboration
between our studio and UAM. We communicated using videoconferencing,
e-mail, and a common web-based file sharing system. Although everyone
eventually focused on one topic or another, the final project is
one cohesive proposal.
A matrix was developed from the comparison
of two alternative models for Tepotzotlan’s growth. One
was a market-driven scenario, shaped by private developers of
both housing and industry, and the
other our municipal plan that would implement development policies
based on the analysis of natural and engineered regional systems.
From an economic and environmental perspective, there are both
term reasons to support the market driven alternative, and compelling
long term reasons to support our alternative. In light of other
options, our plan offers the best opportunity to establish high
quality residential life, create jobs, and promote environmental
stewardship. These factors will make Tepotzotlan a true Green
Municipality and role model for other towns in the Valley of
The Tepotzotlan study takes a long-term design-oriented
approach to physical planning, rather than focusing on the complexities
of cost-benefit assessment, institutional change or implementation.
While recognizing its limitations, the study may have the advantages
of distance and of taking a “fresh look” at issues
and prospects for Tepotzotlan. The work is overtly speculative.
It is important to emphasize that this type of study neither
the future of the region, nor produces an immediately feasible
master plan. The policies and proposals which we have developed
of possible futures, given the forces and factors in motion today.
Their value is to allow one to visualize the future for a moment,
and perhaps to decide whether it is the future that is wanted
what decisions might be needed to take one there.
An exhibition was mounted and our project was presented to the
citizens and the public authorities of Tepotzotlan at the
Viceroy Museum on January 11th 2005. The exhibition attracted approximately
8000 people over 4 months. Of those 8000, 3200 (50% of which were
local residents) filled out the electronic questionnaire provided
at the exhibit. Due to its overwhelming popularity, the exhibition
was extended by two weeks.
The municipal authorities have decided to develop a new land use
plan that incorporates the main ideas (e.g. green corridors, water
management) of our student proposal. In addition, there are plans
to locally publish two versions of the proposal: a technically detailed
version and a plain Spanish summary of the proposal aimed at a wider
audience. This exhibit was the official ending of our studio, but
for the people of Tepotzotlan it was the beginning of a public
debate on the alternatives for their future.