CCASLA 2011 Professional Awards
Descriptive Data Summary
Project Title: Nuevo Centro Urbano de Morelos (New Urban Center of Morelos)
Project Location: State of Morelos, Mexico
Project Type: Planning
Project Summary: Nuevo Centro Urbano Morelos (CU) sets the precedent for the development of new cities in Mexico.
Generally, most current Mexican cities are not planned with integrated systems or to satisfy the long-term needs of their
residents. Rapid urbanization of incoming poor from rural Mexico, chaotic economic expansion and growing automobile
dominance have negatively impacted life in urban Mexico. The vision for this new city is to strengthen the Mexican middle
class, embrace environmental stewardship and to build a diverse community while comprehensively designing a new seat
of government. This type of comprehensive planning is unprecedented in Mexican history.
Project Purpose: As it relates to urban growth and community expansion, Mexico is where the United States was sixty
years ago. In the 1950’s the GI Bill and US federal housing policies encouraged home ownership, education and
suburban growth. Similarly, population growth, the effects of globalization and other national trends are influencing the
way Mexicans live, work and play today. Communities and cities must be planned to work with these modern
developments and help people fulfill their dreams. Nuevo Centro Urbano de Morelos is one of the first attempts in Mexico
at providing similar support mechanisms to those offered in the US in the 1950’s that will encourage home ownership,
business prosperity and a cohesive middle class.
This project is aimed at providing financial and social support for the low income population, with the intent to encourage
home ownership, instill pride and confidence, improve individual business and professional performance and to put the
systems in place needed to promote successful middle class growth. The vision for the project was to create a model city
that will be home to 100,000 people (26,000 homes), house the new government center for the State of Morelos and, as
part of its framework, embrace the site’s most important natural, physical and historic attributes, thereby creating a
precedent for the development of new communities in Mexico.
The goal of this effort was to create a new pattern that integrates the developer’s traditional residential products with a
new seat of government for the public administration of the State of Morelos and the cities of Cuernavaca and Temixco as
well as the social and utility systems necessary for community prosperity. To meet these significant objectives, the
developer must provide much more than a collection of houses. Principles of city planning that recognize and reconcile
the necessary city systems such as transportation, utilities, open space, public space and a mix of uses are employed to
guarantee that the team delivers a project with soul and a sense of community. Our team is very proud to contribute to
the development of a sustainable community for Mexico’s future, one that will benefit current and future generations.
Role of Landscape Architect: The design team worked with an industry-leading developer that is expanding its
capability from homebuilding to the building of cities across Mexico. In partnership with state and federal governments,
this developer has used its strategic power and leadership to bring together a consultant team to create city plans that will
set new standards for development in Mexico. The innovative consultant team that was convened to plan this new city
has global experience in water conservation, infrastructure design, environmental preservation and responsive planning.
The landscape architect was hired to master plan the new city; design the regional arterial, a City’s urban plaza, a series
of neighborhood plazas (aka barrios) and the pedestrian boardwalk that defines the City Center to a schematic level; draft
design guidelines that ensure the vision is realized; design and analyze the financial feasibility of recreational amenities
on the property; as well as design streets and community gathering places.
Existing Conditions. The site’s existing, sensitive natural features provide the foundation for the plan and require
significant attention to prevent irresponsible degradation. The thirty meter deep ravines (barrancas) are independent
functioning ecosystems rich with wildlife, water and plants, and are threatened by careless development due to the effects
of increased stormwater runoff and resident debris. The plan presented strategies that would protect these environments
while embracing their presence, location and significance.
Social Inequity. There is a major disparity between the wealthy and the low income population in the project area.
Differences in income, wealth, education and family structure contribute to the differences in home ownership; the lack of
home ownership opportunities sustains the disparity in wealth, education, access to jobs and overall quality of life. This
project strives to minimize the gap in the home ownership differential in Cuernavaca, Mexico by giving the low income
population access to home ownership opportunities that they would otherwise not have.
Cultural Barriers. The Mexican culture traditionally focuses their living and business presence inward, away from the
public rights-of-way, rather than outward towards the public realm. They place the most value behind the walls that line
the streets. The security concerns and social barriers presented our team with especially motivating urban design
CCASLA 2011 Professional Awards
Descriptive Data Summary
challenges. Our goal was to find solutions to the walled approach so as to initiate community interaction and to create
inviting street design and safety.
Social Interaction. The interaction among residents was a key component to the formation of a functioning, thriving
community. Conceptually, 300 homes are organized around a barrio (neighborhood center) and 5,000 homes are
organized around a colonia (community center). These spaces provide safe meeting and gathering places within an
acceptable walking distance for recreation, social gathering and community services.
Significance: The planning and design team defined seven parts to the value proposition being delivered in this plan.
The following descriptions outline the design team’s commitment to cutting edge implementation at CU:
City & Environment. The planning of CU deeply respects the historic function of the site’s delicately vital environment.
The deep-cut ravines and underlying aquifer make it functionally significant, beautiful and sensitive to the impact of
development. During planning, every precaution was taken to ensure preservation of the canyons’ integrity. These
features are deserving of National Park status and will require ongoing maintenance and management. Most important is
the idea that the neighborhoods of CU can be sustainably built and exist within this precious environment.
City & Community. The developer has created residential products that appeal to the Mexican market. The easiest
opportunity for success within CU was to incorporate the developer’s traditional residential products. However,
adjustments to the typical layout of the residential products were made to allow the urban design and social objectives to
be achieved. While 60% of the project achieves affordable status the real cutting-edge objective is to mix classes to
achieve social progress. In the barrios and colonias, select units will be available that allow for commercial uses on the
ground floor and residential uses on the second floor.
CU is more than a collection of houses; it is based on the idea that communities and cities are the key to developing
families and human resources. Several ideas are key to making CU more than just a collection of homes. First, individuals
must recognize the value of the whole place in order to create city pride. Historically, Mexican people have focused on
the value of their own residence, not necessarily on the greater values of the community. This awareness will mix people
by income levels within each neighborhood by varying the product types that are placed next to one another. Powerful
benefits are achieved in the mixing of people who help each other to grow and who build a humanistic outlook. The two
key ideas are achieving the awareness and respect for the community and getting the demographic range of residents to
mix in public spaces and institutions.
City & Employment Centers. The employment base of CU is anchored by the government employees at the state and
municipal palaces. Not only are there government employees, but additional employees and business owners will benefit
from proximity to the palaces. Corporations and other businesses will soon expand into the new city. The supply of
housing in a range of price points for workers offers businesses the employment base for success. Mixed use
development is promoted in the central business district to reinforce the commercial viability of the city. Office
accommodations, in addition to those related to government activity will strengthen the opportunity for this to be the
region’s new business destination. Accommodation of a mall and big-box retail completes the range of retail and
commercial offerings that establish this as the Urban Center.
City & Connectivity. Without movement, the processes of business and the development of culture cannot be
accomplished. The economic engine of this development is built on the connection between the old and new roads from
Mexico City to Acapulco. Substantial sums are being spent on bridges and the “backbone” road that links the geography
of CU across the canyons that create development plateaus. Movement of people and goods are essential to the
business integrity of CU and Cuernavaca. The beautiful streets, system of open space and plazas, and preserved ravines
increase the emphasis on pedestrian modes of circulation. For residents of CU, mass transit is provided by buses. Bus
stops, holding areas and other operational elements of the transit program are incorporated in to the city plan.
Intelligent Urban Design. Urban design offers methods for delivering social cohesion and livability, for making CU a
national model for building the middle class in Mexico. In the simplest terms urban design organizes systems to satisfy
community needs. Systems include hierarchy of streets, mass transit, schools, parks and open space and other features
that make the city livable and encourage positive interactions between people. The most significant organizers of space
on this site are existing ravines which define plateaus and establish reasonably flat development sites. The urban systems
are overlain on the plateaus to make barrios (community centers), colonias (neighborhood centers) and, collectively, the
city. Intelligent urban design is what builds the community from a mass of houses and roads into a city. Urban design aims
to make the public spaces the pride of the community and the opportunity for people to meet and mix.
Nuevo Centro Urbano de Morelos (New Urban Center of Morelos)
Photo Description Sheet
Nuevo Centro Urbano 01 Located in Morelos, Mexico, the site is adjacent to a major route from Mexico City to
Acapulco. The movement of people along this roadway promotes settlement near
commercial centers, allowing for the creation and relocation of government industry and
Nuevo Centro Urbano 02 The Morelos area was settled by the native Tlahuicas who named the area Temixco or
“the stone cat’s place”. The current city of Temixco is located 10km from the city of
Cuernavaca. Today, due to the climate, geography and political location, these two cities
in Morelos represent the ideal location for one of the most ambitious and innovative
developments in Mexico.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 03 The defining characteristics of the site are the natural ravines formed by water flow from
the surrounding mountains. These barrancas are ecologically sensitive and merit federal
protection. The integrity of this ecosystem will be preserved using a careful strategy of
canals & detention basins that will intercept post-development stormwater, and release it
at pre-development rates.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 04 A source of community pride in the new city will be the preservation of the barrancas.
This has not been the norm in surrounding neighborhoods where ravines have been
Nuevo Centro Urbano 05 In general, most cities in Mexico today have not been designed and planned to satisfy the
long term needs of residents. Significant population growth and the dominance of
automobile transportation have negatively impacted the quality of life in urban Mexico.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 06 The site’s existing physical features were incorporated into the plan including: natural
ravines and topography, picturesque views of a Volcano to the east, a utility powerline, a
cemetery, a mine, a shrine, a federally protected tree grove and road rights-of-way.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 07 The site for the new city offers sloping areas eminently suitable for building. Combining
community and environmental systems within the site resulted in a plan that fulfilled the
developer’s business goals without compromising future community needs.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 08 The vision for the new city is to embrace environmental stewardship and reduce
congestion and traffic problems by providing a comprehensively designed new seat of
government for the public administration of the State of Morelos and the cities of
Cuernavaca and Temixco.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 09 The new city will be situated on 1800 acres in an area of Mexico known as “The Land of
Eternal Spring” in a tropical wet/dry season climate. It will be a place unlike any other in
Mexico – urban, modern, welcoming to the emerging middle class, and set sensitively
within its environment.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 10 Existing communities pay little attention to public space, therefore one of the primary
project goals is to create safe, beautiful public spaces. Neighborhood plazas, also known
as barrios, promote a social network and may have a variety of uses within them. Each
plaza serves as a neighborhood identity element and creates social cohesion. Each
barrio is connected to other barrios by pedestrian and bicycle paths. The plazas are
primarily demarcated by roads and residential uses that front them.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 11 Units will border these barrio plazas so that residents take ownership of them, thus
providing a different kind of security beyond the typically used concrete walls.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 12 Some of the plazas will be grand spaces, such as the Temixco Plaza near the new
government offices. Here the mayor will address crowds from the balcony and citizens
can attend events or visit the plaza on a daily basis.
Nuevo Centro Urbano 13 The central business district will be positioned around one of the ravines, creating a
pedestrian experience unique to the region. It will also be the home of new government
offices for the City of Cuernavaca and the State of Morelos.
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