About Teddy Cruz

2007 L'Enfant Lecturer
November 1, 2007
Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center

For the past decade, Teddy Cruz has offered a unique perspective on the relationship between culture, planning, and design in communities along the U.S.–Mexican border. As a founding principal of Estudio Teddy Cruz, this Guatemalan-born architect has gained world-wide recognition for his commitment to finding architectural and urban planning solutions for global political and social problems that proliferate in international border zones. In his work, Cruz seeks to build upon the resourcefulness and creativity of Latin America to develop neighborhoods that have fluid intermingling of private and public, building materials and construction techniques, and familiar and communal space to create more hybrid and flexible landscapes than what American housing policies currently provide.

Teddy Cruz began studying architecture at Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala City (B.A., 1982), and after emigrating to the United States, continued his studies at California State Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo. In 1991, Cruz received the prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture. Returning to San Diego from Rome, he established his own practice — Estudio Teddy Cruz — in 1993, and shortly thereafter completed his architectural education at Harvard University GSD (M.Des.S. 1997).  He has taught and lectured in various universities in the U.S. and Latin America, including an associate Professorship in the school of architecture at Woodbury University in San Diego where he founded the Border Institute (BI) dedicated to research on border urbanism, and a recent appointment to the newly-created tenured research and teaching post of Artist in Public Culture/Urban Space in the Visual Arts Department at the University of California, San Diego.

Cruz has received widespread recognition for projects on both sides of the border.  Three of his most noteworthy projects include:

  • Border Postcards: Chronicles from the Edge — a housing project that was awarded the 2004–2005 James Stirling Memorial Lecture on the City by the Canadian Centre for Architecture.  This project explored new urban strategies for the international border zone spanning the San Diego/Tijuana border region, where alternative, participatory architectural practices can emerge to challenge established urban policy and expose the discriminatory social-political and economic histories of land use that shape our notions of housing, city, and territory. 
  • Corridors on Imperial in San Diego — a plan prepared by Cruz for addressing urban sprawl with a mixed-use project that integrates housing, jobs, and the community. Cruz received two American Institute of Architects awards for this effort.
  • Casa Familiar — located in the San Diego suburb of San Ysidro, Cruz envisions a 14,000 square foot parcel system that would promote affordable housing and facilitate interaction between people and uses. The "Casa Familiar" model uses a nonprofit entity as an intermediary between government and the community to oversee all activity within the confines of the parcel. The project created 12 affordable housing units, a mercado (market), a church with office space for the nonprofit headquarters, and a community garden. "This project is showing that you can raise density without compromising privacy and open space, though the result may be semi-private and semi-public areas," Cruz says.