An unorthodox program located in Tijuana, Mexico's red light district is making waves in a community not known for its architecture. Escuela Libre de Arquitectura (Architecture Free School) was founded by Tijuana architect Jorge Gracia with its surroundings in mind. It now has 29 students, who learn from a curriculum centered on practical methods to designing architecture.

Located in a city that boasts one of Mexico's most developed manufacturing centers, the school teaches the use of native materials and recycling in construction. The curriculum is about 40 percent theory and 60 percent practice.

"Many architecture students can conceptualize incredible designs, but they cannot build them," Gracia told Los Angeles Times. "We want students to be able to build — to go to a building or a plaza and be able to analyze what works and what doesn't. And we want them to work within the social context, in this case, of Tijuana."

Escuela Libre de Arquitectura teaches experimental design and Classical proportion, but also hosts weekly visits to construction sites to understand how to realize designs.

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