Estudio Teddy Cruz (since 2012: Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman)

Group – San Diego, USA

1994 onwards

Teddy Cruz's practice is situated in and informed by the Tijuana/San Diego borderzone. Although the border itself is becoming more and more militarised, it remains porous through the counter-tactics of those who transgress it, tunnelling under or moving across in the cover of darkness. Whilst these 'illegal' people move northwards, all sorts of objects, large and small move southwards; the excess of US consumer society, from houses that were to be demolished to disused tyres, are moved across the border to be recycled and reused. It is in the context of this continual flow back and forth that Cruz places his own practice. Taking inspiration from the ways in which informal settlements creatively reuse 'waste' material and make flexible spaces with overlapping programmes, he creates an affordable architecture in the US and Mexico, working with NGO's and non-profit organisations on both sides of the border.

Estudio Teddy Cruz combines practice and research, with Cruz himself having taught at Woodbury University in San Diego, as well as his current position at University of San Diego California. The practice's method expands the role of the architect, carrying out research into systems and materials, socio-political phenomena, as well as engaging in the political and legal issues related to the built environment. Mike Davis is a frequent collaborator and advisor on their urban research and has also acted as client. The practice designed an extension for the writer's house that filled the plot and built on top of the single-storey garage. The rather innocuous sounding project acted as a planning test case for one of Cruz's long-standing campaigns to increase the density of US suburban sprawl. This episode illustrates well their working method, the project began as research on migrant communities' use of the standard suburban house, a large extended family occupying space originally designed for the nuclear family, perhaps adding a business on the ground floor. These spatial practices of densification and hybrid use were not supported by obsolete planning and zoning policies, proving Cruz's point that buildings, and architecture in its traditional sense, cannot advance without the modification of political and legal structures.

The projects carried out by Estudio Teddy Cruz start with issues of scarcity and economic failure, using as inspiration the inventive everyday practices found in these situations of crisis. They propose bottom-up solutions in collaboration with local NGOs and other non-profit organisations in an approach that shows the emancipatory potential of architecture as well as acknowledging its inherently political context. Their work is disseminated as built-form, but also as workshops, lectures and exhibitions; they have participated in the Venice Architecture Biennale and take part in the annual InSITE public art programme at the Tijuana/San Diego border.

Key Projects

Other Work

Anne Boddington and Teddy Cruz, eds., Architectural Design: Architecture of the Borderlands. (Oxford: John Wiley and Sons, 1999).

Teddy Cruz, 'Border Postcards: Chronicles from the Edge', James Memorial Lecture on the City. (CCA, LSE, Van Alen Institute, 2004-2005).

---, 'Levittown Retrofitted', in Visionary power: Producing the Contemporary City, eds. Christine de Baan, Joachim Declerck, and Veronique Patteeuw (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2007).

---, 'Tijuana Case Study: Tactics of Invasion - Manufacturing Sites', Architectural Design, 75(5)(2005): 32-37.

---, "Two-Way Journeys: Border Walls, Border Cities, and the Two-Headed Trojan Horse of Tijuana." Thresholds: MIT Journal of the School of Architecture, (20)(2000).

Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, 'Unwailing Citizenship', The Avery Review

---, 'Public Imagination, Citizenship and an Urgent Call for Justice’, The Nature of Cities, 23 October 2015,

Teddy Cruz and Caleb Waldorf, 'Learning from Tijuana', Triple Canopy,

'Estudio Teddy Cruz',,

References About

'Architecture + Art: Teddy Cruz and Pedro Reyes', Vimeo,

'Border Cities: Tactics of Encroachment', YouTube, March 31, 2008,

D. Bratton, 'Estudio Teddy Cruz', Architectural Design, 74(1)(2004): 117-124.

M. Falkowska, 'Casa Familiar, Living Rooms at the Border, San Ysidro, California: Estudio Teddy Cruz', Praxis: Journal of Writing + Building, (3)(2001): 28-33.

T. Misra, '"'The Border Is a Way of Reinforcing Antagonism That Doesn't Exist." Architect Teddy Cruz and political scientist Fonna Forman want to turn the line between the U.S. and Mexico into a site for creative problem solving'. CityLab

A. Ross, 'Housing, Immigration and Fairness: Learning from San Ysidro', Harvard Design Magazine, (27)(2007): 22-29.


'It is out of[these socio-cultural and economic tensions and from territories of political conflict, such as the San Diego-Tijuana border region, that critical architectural practices can emerge. These are territorial projects whose main focus is not the object of architecture, but the subversion of the information imprinted artificially on the land, the alteration of the boundaries and limits established by the institutions of official development.'
- Teddy Cruz, The James Stirling Memorial Lecture on the City, 2004-2005.

'My practice in San Diego has been primarily engaged with the politics of land use, provoked by the realization that no advances in housing design can be accomplished without advances in the transformation of urban policy. In other words, that the ultimate site of intervention is planning regulation itself, and the contamination of zoning in the form of alternative densities and uses, informal politics and economies, and in a search for new organizational strategies across the untapped resources found within diverse jurisdictions, communities, and institutions.'
- Teddy Cruz, The James Stirling Memorial Lecture on the City, 2004-2005.


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