U.S. Architects Head to LatAm to Weather the Economic Storm

by Dave

Architectural Record

In recent years, as many major U.S. architecture firms expanded internationally, they often bypassed Latin America in favor of Europe, China, and the Middle East. Gradually, though, that may be starting to change, as architects open offices and enlist for projects in Central and South American countries, where population and economic growth have been strong in recent years.

Even as financial troubles mount around the world, and increasingly put some Latin nations at risk, there’s a sense that much of the region, which has been buffeted by severe recessions before, can weather the current crisis. At least that’s what some architects believe.

While the global credit freeze could theoretically curtail shopping
habits, the overall effects “won’t be as severe here,” Forneris
predicts. “Money has been hard to come by for years, so I don’t know
how much more credit can shrink for them.”

Another driver of Latin America’s building boom is tourism. Despite a
global drop in travel due to the economic downturn, Bryan Algeo, AIA,
principal of WATG, an Irvine, California-based firm, says the Latin
American tourism industry shouldn’t be as badly affected as other parts
of the world because the region’s still relatively affordable compared
with other destinations.

“I’m continually surprised how much of a need there is for development,” says Stephen Forneris, AIA, who heads the 10-employee office that Perkins Eastman opened in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in October. The city, which is Ecuador’s largest and a busy port for shipments of chocolate, bananas, shrimp, and cement, has mushroomed from 300,000 people in 1970 to 3.5 million today, Forneris says.