Tales of a great landscape Architect: Mario Lazo villarreal, one of the most important exponents of sustainable architecture and landscaping in Mexico in recent decades.

Mario Lazo Villareal: Graduated from the School of Architecture of the UNAM and the Central School of Art and Design in London. Founder of UNIDAD DISEÑO, a multidisciplinary workshop where he practiced Architecture and Design.
His extensive work included touristic developments in the Mexican coast, residential, education, industrial and cultural projects. For his outstanding career, he received the honor of giving the “Cátedra Extraordinaria Federico Mariscal” in 2005.

The Arch. Cecilia Gonzalez Flores talks about how it was to work alongside the Arch. Mario Lazo for more than 25 years and shares whit us a unique perspective on his vision and life.

We present this interview as a posthumous tribute for this great landscape architect.

Sketching a landscape project plan at UNIDAD DISEÑO. Photography: José Bracho.

How would you describe the work in Unidad Diseño and its values?

Working in Unidad Diseño has been an honor for me. Not only have I been formed as an architect, but also the values he transmitted me for more than 25 years have helped me grow and mature to be the person I am now. 

When you are a student, the first thing you ask is: how do you practice the profession?… Actually, there are many doubts about how to carry out the profession of an architect.

Even though I had already worked in other offices, in Unidad Diseño I perceived a different environment: something like a scent of stability, experience and serenity, combined with a sense of novelty and freshness. 

Photography: José Bracho.

The materials and the quality of the office space transmit those sensations: the “zaguán” (hallway) wrapped in a big bamboo canopy, the vestibule and the double-height staircase with the wooden models, the furniture and wide ceilings of wood, the meeting room always covered with ever-changing projects.

About the workflow, the Mario Lazo’s trust on his team was evident, there has always been a careful balance between the performance and the coordination of our colleagues; hence the effectiveness and productivity of the office.

From the beginning, I found the design outcomes truly impressive: the impeccability of the models, the neatness of the presentations, the rigor of the executive projects, but above all, the quality and looseness of the drawings. 

Entrance of
Photography: José Bracho

Photography: UNIDAD DISEÑO.

What was the design method of Mario? What work habits did he have?

For Mario, the first essential component for practicing the job, without which it would lose all meaning, was the trips.

Something, someone outside this field might think is: does the Architecture profession really take you to wonderful places? The answer is that, for better or worse, it does. Mario thought architecture should provide “surrounding spaces that could receive habitable spaces”.

To visit the site, wander around, live, read and interpret it, was for him, an activity that was closely related to the first instinct drawing. Few can draw nature like Mario. In his vegetation drawings, there are always multiple layers: lights and shadows, empty and full, textures and tonalities.

Later on, in the office, he proposed we did a meeting room “encerrona” (we would not leave until we finished the work), in which, first individually and then as a group, through drawings and more drawings, we could find the right match for that special project.

Photography: Cecilia González

I keep in my heart the route we took: following him in his walk… On this journey he taught me that beyond a place… There is life!

What do you think were his greatest contributions in the field of Mexican landscape architecture?

You learn from Mario Lazo, and I learned. You learn to respect the site, respect nature and its laws. You learn that a parota (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) is different from an anate (Ficus insipida), that the plumeria (Plumeria rubra) is different from the paper flower (Bougainvillea glabra). 

You learn that the white color has over two hundred tonalities, and that our body is the best scaler. You learn that besides plants there is stones, sun, light and friends, people who gather to occupy our spaces. You learn that Architecture is a profession but also a business, is experience, is life and parts of life that interweave. 

You learn from the simplicity of beauty and life itself. 


Arq. Cecilia González Flores


Real de San Lucas 16, Col. Barrio San Lucas, México, D.F. 04030