THE STONE WITH NO NAME
A GEOLOGICAL CONVERSATION
We – Mexicans – are a people prone to colloquialisms, diminutives and customised expressions. We
pave (and re-pave) our language in the same way that we approach all walks of life: practically,
naively and with a genuine sense of inventiveness, surprise and exploration.
Toba, or tuff, one of the most commonplace building materials in Mexico, is no exception to
this. For us, it is quite simply known as cantera which, somewhat problematically, actually means
quarry. A rock ubiquitously named after its place of extraction – and right here, in its non-name,
we begin to oversee an interesting expression of its convoluted and fragmented composition.
Pink, white, brown or green, toba/cantera is vastly found in Mexico’s transvolcanic belt and has
been the go-to material for architecture and ornamentation since as early as prehispanic and, later
on, colonial times thanks to both its soft malleability and availability. It tells a material history of
the nation’s evolving eras and cultural identities. It is so recognisably Mexican that people to this
day continue using it – in larger and smaller scales – as a stamp of our identity. From monumental
public edifices to private homes and smaller decorations – sometimes a fountain or an arch – its
use is somewhat a practical choice, but it is also a clearly aesthetic one.
However, the true substance of toba/cantera lies in its volcanic origins, mainly conformed of
volcanic ash ejected after an eruption, deposited and lithified into a solid rock alongside other
material fragments from rocks, metals and minerals. Visually porous and composed of jarring
pieces of distinct hues which seem to have been pressured into being, moulded together as one
solid entity. So, interestingly, toba/cantera cannot help but serve as a metaphorical representation
of Mexico, Mexicanness and its people. A brutal amalgamation of culture and traditions, pressurecooked
into cultural merges and explosions, transformed into something – albeit scarred –
beautiful and practical.
One could easily say toba/cantera is a physical representation of our Mexican social fibre. Toba/
cantera is Mexico and therefore we – Mexicans – are this stone with no name.
ABOUT THE STONE ARCHIVE BAG COLLABORATION
Continuing the running archive theme, the idea behind the bag was to emulate the archival
portfolios used for carrying and storing documents and accompanying investigators during
research travels. An aesthetic which is heavily influenced by practicality; visitors to the exhibition
can partner with this bag through their own curious endeavours.
ABOUT BERNARDO DOMINGUEZ
Bernardo is a creative director and partner at Savvy studio, leading the Mexico City team, recently based between Mexico and Europe. Both his and the studio's core practice is focused on research and exploration of culture – inspired by art and materiality – creating each project in a deeply contemplative manner.
His work is fueled by empathy to create something that feels just right – which in the end makes us feel good – through a universal approach to design and creativity from its informality, its lack of conventional institutionalism and its earnestness.
The overall aim is always to materialize and to form deep and relevant connections to both context and culture.