The Store Putting Tijuana on the Design Map
Within Mexico, Tijuana’s mestizo culture is renowned: The city’s booming manufacturing industry attracts migrant workers from all over the country, who bring with them disparate cultural traditions whose influence has long been felt in the music and food scenes. Now, it is on display at Object, a pioneering design shop in the city. “Most of the designers we carry work directly with traditional Mexican artisans from all over Mexico,” says its owner, Verónica Hernández. She and the store’s other co-owners travel throughout the country to source designs that often reflect regional manufacturing methods.
She opened Object with her sister Adriana Hernández and Adriana’s husband, Rodrigo Escobedo Baena, in 2014. The shop’s first location, now closed, was in an area historically known to cater to the vices of travelers from across the border. Tijuana’s tourism declined during a murderous period in the late 2000s, when serial killings caused by drug cartel feuds gripped the city. “It’s important to note that this building is located in downtown Tijuana, in the red-light district,” says Baena of the new space. “We believe, as do others, that the creative industry can change this context in a positive way. It’s a form of urban acupuncture,” he continues, referring to the theory that small socioeconomic changes across a city cumulatively affect the overall quality of life there.
In addition to an exclusive furniture line designed by Baena, the store now carries an expanded collection of lighting from Candela, which references glass curio boxes commonly used for jewelry storage in many Mexican households. The designer Sonia Lartigue riffed on the vitrines’ simple design, in which welded brass ribbing holds together individually cut glass panes. The resulting glass cube pendants and faceted table lamps allude to Old World Wiener Werkstätte-era lighting from the likes of Josef Hoffmann — while retaining a distinct Mexican minimalism.
In one corner of the store, a row of Sebastián Beltrán’s pendant Tool lamps cast a glow on Object’s textured plywood walls. The sculptor moved his studio to León, Mexico, to be close to the automotive-manufacturing and leather-tanning industries, where he’s embarked on a career in design alongside his wife, the art director Lorena Marquez; they create work together as Natural Urbano. “It’s a great location, since we can find infinite material inspiration for our products,” he says. The Tool lamp’s variously shaped metal drums are cast in an iron mold, refined using a lathe process and then secured at the top to a bulbous wood shaft crafted to recall the handles of sculpturing tools.
In January, Object will open a second, smaller location in One Bunk, a new 15-room boutique hotel in Tijuana that bills itself as a “binational hospitality” concept. (One Bunk has another location across the border in San Diego.) Object already acts as a distributor for some of its designers in Southern California, having seen a larger demand for its merchandise there. “Tijuana lives a duality,” Baena says. “On one side of the border, you have ‘the American dream,’ and on the other side, there’s roots with Mexican culture, full of blood and traditions. The art and design scene is on the verge of those two realities coming together.”
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