As an architect and urban designer based in Mexico City, Surella Segu focuses on urban renewal best practices and the use of interdisciplinary approaches to develop comprehensive and sustainable solutions to housing deficits in countries facing urban expansion. Her interest rests in the incorporation of professional and technical knowledge to counter problematic urban development patterns still dominant in the Global South. Segu was head of the Urban Development Department at Mexico’s Institute of the National Housing Fund for Workers (Infonavit) since its creation in 2013 until the end of 2016.
Faced with the challenge of setting up a new Urban Development Department-establishing its aims and attracting valuable human resources-she developed a general strategy based on two lines of action. First, she generated practical research linked to both new and existing programs. Second, she designed and implemented urban renewal projects focussed on capacity building at the municipal and community levels, including technical support for developing local urban plans. Her main objective was to create a feedback circle whereby the research was tested in the field and the experiences from the field informed the research.
For the last four years Segu has generated nationwide strategies and solutions to address the difficulties faced by inhabitants of mass-produced social housing neighborhoods: improving master plans, implementing urban renewal programs, developing tools to measure impact such as the Housing Deterioration Index, and involving Mexico’s top architects and urbanists in these efforts. She also generated programs to strengthen communal cohesion, and fostered research to understand the impact of community building activities, such as the effects of urban art on these settlements. As a Loeb Fellow, Segu will conduct a comprehensive research project on mass-produced social housing, exploring a novel design system that is both architectural and urban and that fosters interaction between designing architects, developers or constructors, and end users.