Welcome to AMNP’s first Ninja of the Month feature – examining the work of Ivan Hernandez Quintela and his firm Ludens. The following articles were featured on AMNP on a weekly basis, and have been assembled here so as to make them more easily accessible / navigable as a group.


Ludens + Aikido Architecture


[Double-click the movie above to play – if you don’t see anything, click anyways and the video should start]

I like to think of myself as a Japanese warrior, who moves so slowly that you do not see me coming.
~ Ivan Hernandez Quintela, Ludens

Our first featured ‘Ninja of the Month‘ is Ivan Hernandez Quintela, Mexico-City based founder [2002] of Ludens [which some of you should remember from this post], and self-proclaimed practitioner of Aikido Architecture – making him the perfect selection for this debut feature.

A graduate of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin [1999], Ivan founded Ludens in 2002 after working for a year with UN Studio and then 2 more years with his brother in Mexico.

Ivan named his practice Ludens as a direct reference to Huizinga and Homo Ludens – the idea of play in society – and the work of Constant NieuwenhuysNew Babylon project, with the idea that people would constantly be involved in constructing/manipulating their own space. Interest in the ideas put forth in these works has led Ivan to consider that ‘space must be conquered and that friction is a constant condition’ – which he attempts to respond to through the creation of “tools for everyday living”, ‘mechanisms that become extensions of the body and if they do not try to solve the friction, they surely try to make it evident’.

This interest in how we interact with our physical and social environments drives Ivan to investigate many ‘everyday necessities’ – for instance: ‘How do you share a bed with your partner? How do you balance a conversation while sharing a meal with someone else? How do you share a room with someone else while maintaining some privacy?’. His solutions are often times ad-hoc, informal constructions. Interested in the power of the ‘small gesture as a way of activating public space’, Ivan describes his work as ‘Aikido Architecture’ – where he ‘invades the public sphere with ‘Urban Prosthetics’, structures meant to help users ‘conquer’ public space through adaptation and reinvention.

Urban Prosthetics


[Image: Public Mobile Library]

One thing that AMNP loves about Ivan Hernandez Quintela of Ludens [our first featured ‘ninja of the month’] is that he’s working to solve problems that the rest of us may not even realize we face daily. Our relationship with public space and each other, as well as our day-to-day interaction with the physical environment are investigated by Ivan in a way that forces you to think about seemingly typical situations in new ways. Through what he calls ‘Aikido Architecture’ [in true ninja fashion], Ivan’s ‘Urban Prosthetics‘ attempt to appropriate public space for the user through adaptation and reinvention – using small architectural gestures to change our perception of public space – and activate that space for the public. Here we feature three examples that Ivan has provided of his ‘Urban Prosthetics’.

Shown above, the Public Mobile Library was designed as part of the Plataforma Art Festival.

The public mobile library is informal reading space capable of being moved into different parts of the city. Its main façade is a pivoting structure that as it comes down onto the ground, it becomes its access stair but also its main area for seating and resting.

The library – seemingly a simple box on wheels – is constructed on two sides [and roof] with woven white plastic strips meant to diffuse light as it enters the reading space contained within. Of the remaining sides, one is a built-in wooden bookshelf – the back/exterior of which serves as a public bulletin board – and the other folds down to create both the stairs to enter the ‘itinerant library‘ and outdoor seating for readers – freeing users from the typically static, stuffy confines of a traditional library. The ‘library’ is now the city itself.


[Image: Black Box]

The black box is a structure whose interior is painted with blackboard paint. In it, I painted a small instruction letting the users know they can draw or write on it and left a box of chalk inside. The idea is that the black box becomes a public theatre, a frame for activity, where the people who enter it and draw on it become the spectacle.


[Image: Unstable Obstacle]

The ‘unstable obstacle’ is a great example of the way in which Ivan looks at social interaction in public space through his work. What better way to change the way we perceive public space than by creating situations where users must communicate with one another – designing a structure that changes with each additional user.

The unstable obstacle is a flimsy boat-like bench where as people sit on it, they must take into consideration where other people are sitting – for if they not sit in relation to the others in order to keep the structure in balance, the structure [will] flip. The more people [who] use the structure, the more stable it becomes.

Plus, Ivan suggests completely different uses for the structure if it is simply flipped-over – as temporary shelter for the homeless, or perhaps even some kind of skateboarding obstacle.

View more of Ivan’s ‘Urban Prosthetics‘ at Ludens’ home page.


Inhabitable Toys


[Image: Mexican Army Shelf]

Similar to the way Ivan Hernandez Quintela of Ludens [our first featured ‘ninja of the month’] used his ‘Urban Prosthetics‘ as a means to investigate / challenge / experiment with social interaction in public spaces, his ‘Inhabitable Toys‘ do the same with furniture. From Ivan:

…’inhabitable toys’, or furniture designed as small machines meant to promote interaction between users or between user and the furniture. I enjoy working with wood, doing all joints and moving parts in it because it reminds me of these wooden toys I use to play when I was little. Therefore, I see these pieces of furniture as big toys, toys meant to be inhabited.

[Image: Mexican Army Shelf, sketch]

Ludens’ Mexican Army Shelf was inspired by the Swiss Army Knife – raising the question: how efficient and multi-purpose can a piece of furniture be? Meant to function as a shelf near an entry to a home, most of the ‘blades’ are designed for needs that arise when one is walking in and out of the house – storing the keys, for keeping change, for writing notes, etc. When closed the shelf is quite sleek and contemporary – transforming as necessary to serve the user’s needs, then neatly closing up until needed again.


[Image: Seesaw Table]

Now, everybody knows that ninja who doesn’t know how to have a ‘balanced’ conversation – talking up a storm during a meal, never letting anyone else get a word in edge-wise. Solution? The Seesaw table.


[Image: Seesaw Table, with sketch]

…[the Seesaw Table] comes out of a condition when two people are having a meal together, and one usually saturates the conversation, leaving the other person just listening as he or she eats her food. The “see saw table” is a mechanism meant to balance the interaction while eating with someone else. Using a see saw system, the seating areas oscillate up and down, allowing the interchange of positions, so as one person is seated high, he or she talks, while the other person eats, and if one wants to change activity, he or she only needs to push up or pull down to talk or eat.


[Image: Sliding Table, sketch + final product]

Another response to the needs of social diners, the Sliding Table offers users a nine piece meal-time puzzle – creating a physical sharing of space along with the sharing of food, drink, etc. The concept is actually that people would no longer simply ask someone to ‘pass them’ the item the wanted from the table – they would instead transform the arrangement of the tiles to better suit their needs.

I thought that by giving each unit a function, for holding snacks, for holding a book, for holding a bottle of wine, for the cigarettes, etc, one would generate a different interaction, where one would no longer ask for any item to be passed to them, but instead would change the whole composition of the table in order to move the bottle of wine unit close by.

I’d be interested to see people going after that wine bottle as the night goes on…


[Image: Sliding Table]

View more of Ivan’s ‘Inhabitable Toys‘ at Ludens’ home page.

Spatial Corrections


[Image: Room for Two]

As those of you that have been following our first ninja of the month feature know, Ivan Hernandez Quintela of Ludens approaches each of his projects as infiltrations, and/or what he calls ‘prosthetics’, that affect/alter/improve/encourage social and physical interaction within a given space – all through simple, minimal changes and additions.

Ludens’ “Spatial Corrections” are projects [by commission] that involve existing spaces. Ivan doesn’t think of the work as ‘remodeling’, however – but instead as ‘prosthetics’ that he ads, often times as “furniture-like pieces, add-ons that help transform the space itself or make it work in a different way”.


[Image: Room for Two]

The first of the featured ‘Spatial Corrections’ is a ‘room for two’, shared by two boys. The sleeping spaces have been elevated to the loft-like spaces on either side of the room [see the sketch above], each accessed by a rotating structure created by Ludens. From Ivan:

I added two mezzanines where each kid would sleep and a stair that would rotate so it could face one or the other mezzanine. As the stair is positioned towards one of the mezzanines, the main space is split in two, when the stair in facing the other mezzanine, the main space is left open. Hanging handrails and other tubes swirl around the space to allow each kid to “escape” in case he gets trapped in a mezzanine while the stair is on the other side.

Good thing those fire-poles are there – otherwise you know those kids would’ve been purposefully stranding each other in those sleeping spaces…


[Image: Art Collector’s Studio]

Next we have Ludens’ work in an art collector’s studio space – which I think really exemplifies Ivan’s overall design strategies. Commissioned to design a bookshelf/storage unit for a collector, Ivan transformed objects that he found in the existing space to meet his client’s needs while adding a personal touch to the work.


[Image: Art Collector’s Studio]

From Ivan:

As I visited the house, I ran into a storage room where he kept empty container boxes which at some point contained art. I decided to utilize these container boxes to construct the bookshelf, putting attention to the stamps, signatures and logos that were placed on the boxes to generate a sort of narrative on the story behind his collection.


[Image: Reading Room]

When asked to design a temporary reading room adjacent to Puebla’s [Mexico] Contemporary Museum, Ivan used small, simple insertions into the space to create informal seating areas. Connected to the museum by a patio, the reading room reaches out to passers-by with a reading table [with chairs] that projects out from the room into the public space – creating “a ‘red carpet’ that would invite visitors to come in into the reading room”. Once drawn inside, visitors would find reading material, computers with internet, and video projections on the walls – along with hammocks hanging from the rooms ceiling, offering more informal seating areas to read and enjoy any media being played in the space.


[Image: Reading Room]

Work in Process


[Image: Matchbox House, sketch]

For our fourth installment of our Ninja of the Month: Ludens feature, we bring you a selection of the current work of Ivan Hernandez Quintela. Exclusive [I believe, anyways] to AMNP, the projects featured here are in various states of design/construction, and were selected by Ivan as examples of what he’s been getting himself into lately.

The first project, ‘Matchbox House’, is AMNP’s favorite of the group – and in my opinion is the most ‘Ludens’ of the three. The proposal is an interesting one, based seemingly on the idea that a bachelor lives alone – and therefore only needs one space at a time. But how does one use this to his/her advantage?


[Image: Matchbox House, model]

Rather then creating a singular, multi-purpose space, Ivan has proposed constructing linear spaces from cargo containers – each connected, but not accessible from one-another. These containers are then accessed from a sliding ‘room’ that sits on rails, and moves from container to container, essentially becoming an extension of whichever space the bachelor is using at the time.

Each container has all the furniture and equipment necessary for a specific activity. There is a sleeping container, an entertainment container, a study container, an eating container, a cooking container, a bathroom container, etc. That way, the neutral room, depending on where is position in relation to the service wall, transforms into a bedroom, a dining room, a studio, etc.

The room is moved by one walking along the deck while pushing door, almost in a hamster kind of way.

While Ivan admits that the client has yet to be convinced of the proposal – we have! Unfortunately, however, the project will really only work for someone who lives alone – otherwise, you’ll be stranded in the bathroom if your roommate decides to take a nap while you shower.

That said, this is the most interesting + innovative proposal for shipping-container architecture I’ve seen in quite some time. Let’s hope it gets built!


[Image: The Multiple Pool, sketch]

Next up we have the ‘Multiple Pool’, a design for a new pool [obviously] for a family’s weekend house. The problem? Like any family, they each want different things from their pool: the mother would like to swim laps in the morning, the father would like a place to relax with a drink after a day of activities, and the children want someplace to dive, and someplace where they could touch the pool’s bottom. The solution? Build three pools, of course.


[Image: The Multiple Pool, model]

I designed three different pools, each responding to a different program and at the end added them all together. I placed the swimming lane as a border to the edge of the small cliff, which looks onto a jungle, and I placed the jacuzzi and the children’s tub as elements protruding into the jungle. The existing structure adjacent to the pool will be intervened with small volumes half way into the structure and half way out of it that will house the vapor room, the bathroom, and the massage room.

Construction of the ‘Multiple Pool’ has begun [hopefully we can get our hands on images to share in the future].


[Image: MUAC Activity Center, model]

Lastly [for now], we have the ‘MUAC Activity Center’, Ivan’s most recent project. Part of the new National University Contemporary Museum in Mexico City, designed by Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon, the ‘Activity Center’ is a space meant to “generate a place where workshops, informal lectures, interviews and other educational activities could take place”.


[Image: MUAC Activity Center, sketch]

As a proposed solution, Ivan has

…decided to create a wooden framework , where architectural elements such as a wall, a table, a curtain, a deck, a carpet, would be attached to, each with the capacity to be moved around, pulled out, adjusted in different ways to create very distinct scenarios within the framework.

Construction is set to begin in October – and once again, we’ll see about getting images as things get underway.

::the projects featured in have been selected by Ivan Hernandez Quintela of Ludens – all images and quoted text have been supplied by Ivan::

Posted: July 31st, 2008
at 9:37am by orangemenace



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