The English writer Thomas de Quincey, in his classic Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, talked about the pleasure that watching a building burn could provide—having made sure there were no possible victims or risks. One century later, the Austrian pyromaniacs of Coop-himelblau used fire as a material in their first architectural interventions. And the Swiss-French Bernard Tschumi theorized a radical architecture that produced pyrotechnical pleasure, which he stated was as useful as lighting matches.
Reality, tragic for sure, provides us with less extreme pleasures than those written by the confessed opium-eater Englishman and the neo-avant-garde European architects, but also probably more useful ones. Without avoiding some symbolism of justice, state and municipal officials in Mexico City have decided to build in the site of a terrible fire, which left behind no good memories, a fire station. They also wisely selected the project through an invitation-only contest. This symbolic gesture, which also proved to be an effective intervention on Insurgentes Avenue—one of Mexico City’s most important avenues—in a section thereof which had been aesthetically for many years, served as a contemporary architectural gesture, which was mindful of the site’s present conditions and of the possible effects it could experience.
Given the site’s conditions, the program’s demands and the fire station’s required areas, public and private spaces intertwined and incorporated training and information programs for the general public. The chosen project for the station presents itself to the exterior as a simple elevated box that almost disappears behind the façade; it floats over the maneuver and tank-truck area onto the street, taking over the urban context in a game of reflections. Thus, it also serves as a functionality lecture for the building, which is generated from the flux of the transportation systems used there. Inside the chromed box, public and private programs are organized into planes with perforations that vary in diameter and generate vertical and horizontal tissues for circulation, light and other uses. Space is shared through the civic courtyard that interacts and complements itself with the street, without mixing with it, thanks to the first storey’s seven-meter height. This also achieves to intertwine both the station and the curiously-called bomberoteca (library for firemen) with each other and the street. Once the fire station is built and an emergency call eventually comes in, we will be able to watch, with a less guilty pleasure than the one Thomas de Quincey had with a burning house, the complete and complex ability this urban piece has and which takes the most-required urban equipment as a reflection and architectural action theme.