On a leafy corner in Anzures, a largely residential district in Mexico City, a new apartment building has an elegant and enigmatic presence. Set behind black-painted concrete walls at the intersection of Michelet and Copernico, streets named for the French historian and Polish scientist, the three-storey building is almost entirely clad in large, floor-to-ceiling panels of glass, transparent planes held in place by minimal black frames. Facing east and south these glass facades are protected by, and reflect, the foliage of mature trees rising from the sidewalk: a liquidambar or red gum tree, an ash tree at the corner, and a jacaranda with seasonal purple flowers. The building is pulled a short distance back from its immediate neighbors, thus establishing a certain independence. It is divided into three crystalline blocks, each approximately the size of a bourgeois house or villa: a square block overlooking Copernico; a corner pavilion parallel to Michelet; and a skinny block to the rear, perpendicular to the street. The entrance to Michelet 50 is between these latter blocks, marked by a glass door and white interior to break the outer wall surface. Passers-by cannot see directly into the ground floor apartments due to the rough-surfaced black wall over which a yellow-flowered ivy is allowed gambol. The vertical zones between the glass facades are also black - black asphalt - and profuse, almost surreally fecund, with ivy. The ivy has rather ingeniously been appropriated from a temporary installation by the artist Jeronimo Hagerman. Look carefully and notice that these recesses ripple in contrast to the taut rectilinearity of the primary facades; they are also occasionally punctured by black metal cylinders that house operable porthole windows. If the prismatic cage of glass and black exterior frame suggests such rationalistic works by Herzog & de Meuron as the Koechlin Villa at Riehen, the interstitial zones recall the same Swiss architects’ respect for ordinary materials and the play of nature. Derek Dellekamp has however no interest in channeling fashion. Michelet 50 is in fact the latest in a series of patient investigations by the young Mexico City architect into typology and structure, investigations that are critically conscious of current international thinking yet concerned, ultimately, with the capability of Mexico’s construction industry and with the realities of Mexican life. At the center of Michelet 50 is a beautiful stair hall. The inky diamantine exterior houses a surprisingly cool white stairwell where the pearly white terrazzo of the floor rises to wrap the chamber walls as a solid, protective membrane. A serpentine stairs, with minimal metal railings, sashays up to both landings above and to a roof pierced by a biomorphic skylight. This interplay of geometries in white light echoes several beguiling interiors by Álvaro Siza, an architect Dellekamp greatly admires. From a communal roof terrace above the corner apartments there are views past the trees, across the neighborhood and north to the landmark early-1980s Pemex tower. The planarity of Michelet 50 was already apparent in Dellekamp’s first built work, an apartment building on Alfonso Reyes, a street in the Condesa neighborhood. If Michelet 50 consists of blocks massed in close proximity, Alfonso Reyes 58 is a porous volume assembled from rectangular layers of industrial material that are separated by contiguous clerestories and by volumetric voids that function as sheltered outdoor rooms. Michelet 50 also incorporates slippages of solid and void. There the primary blocks are glazed in the return surfaces next to the vertical displays of ivy, providing the apartments with peripheral glimpses to the streets outside. This refinement of the relationship between structure and skin has both aesthetic purpose (architecture as abstract object) and subtly augments the sensory experience of the buildings. In Polanco, a third district in this primarily residential zone of Mexico City, Dellekamp has completed two further apartment buildings on a street called Calderón de la Barca. CB 30 addresses the street with an extremely flat and flush glass façade, an effect facilitated by tapering the slabs to minimal depth at the exterior. CB 29 has also a glass façade but a more intriguing interior with some walls angled in plan and views through volumes that include a lushly planted patio on the second floor. These canted geometries within an orthogonal frame recall box sculptures by Donald Judd and - together with the industrial materials - projects by Rem Koolhaas and by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Dellekamp, however, is interested not in quotation or sampling but in the haptic and perceptual qualities of architecture. As his work matures, from Alfonso Reyes 58 to the two buildings on Calderón de la Barca to Michelet 50 and, now, to a bipartite project at Amsterdam 307, there is an editing and distillation of intent so that his architecture is increasingly, to use one of the architect’s favorite words, direct. Amsterdam 307 entails the refurbishment of a two-storey structure facing the avenue of that name and the insertion of a taller building into the courtyard to the rear. Here in Condesa every square meter is intensely sought after and the new building (it is really a small tower) expands to avail of optimal space, light and views. Dellekamp has corralled service spaces and structure into parallel boundary walls so that one spectacular and unobstructed apartment occupies each of the six levels. The upper floors enjoy views across an interstitial courtyard, and the refurbished building out front, to the trees and roofscape of this affluent urban quarter. Geometry is tuned to experiential advantage. The boundary zones function in the typical plan like the inhabited piers of a bridge, piers that contain stairs, an elevator and a kitchenette. They taper in plan (as the slabs at CB 30 do in section) so that the eye tends not to read thickness and is drawn instead to the exterior panorama. These tapering forms are notched to discreetly light and ventilate compact bathrooms in their apexes. Another clever tactic is the entry sequence whereby visitors from the street negotiate a kind of miniature stepped topography (as at CB 29) before ascending in a white communal lobby with a single cut to the sky for illumination (a sibling surely of the stairwell at Michelet 50). Derek Dellekamp is one of the most original of an emerging generation of young, ambitious and globalized Mexican architects. What does it mean to be “original”? In the case of Dellekamp, it means both drawing upon precedent and having the independence of mind to propose new and evolutionary resolutions to frequently competing needs.