By Geri Smith
Eclectic, Unusual Architecture
Visitors to Mexico City are often surprised by its breadth of architectural styles, from 16th century churches to oddly shaped skyscrapers of the past decade. The result: an eclectic collection of unusual buildings, including a few that architecture professor José Maria Nava of the Iberoamerican University called “vedette buildings”—movie-star structures that stand apart and aloof from their surroundings. The latest addition will be the 183,000 square-foot Soumaya Museum, shown above, designed to house the art collection of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. The stretched, twisted aluminum cube is due to be inaugurated before the end of 2010. Here, take a virtual tour of some of Mexico City’s other architectural head-turners.
Conjunto Arcos Bosques
Architects: Teodoro González de León, Francisco Serrano, Carlos Tejeda
When the first, twin-legged tower of the Arcos Bosques office complex was inaugurated in 1996, it immediately became known as the Torre del Pantalón—the Trousers Building. In 2008, the complex got a second building, which has two separate towers linked by a dagger-like central walkway. In keeping with Mexico’s wacky zoning, they’re smack in the middle of one of Mexico City’s most upscale residential neighborhoods, Bosques de las Lomas.
Architect: Agustín Hernández Navarro
Officially named Calakmul, after an important pre-Hispanic Mayan civilization, the building is known locally as the Washing Machine. The structure, inaugurated in 1997, is also at the center of the capital’s newest and wealthiest neighborhoods, Santa Fé. The area originally was a strip-mining zone and later a major garbage dump before being reclaimed by the city government.
Hoteles Fiesta Inn y Fiesta Americana Santa Fe
Architect: Picciotto Arquitectos
As one U.S. architectural engineer who has worked in Mexico says, “Mexicans are capable of building anything—just draw a design on a napkin, and they’ll build it for you.” That appears to be the case with this unusual hotel complex in the Santa Fé area of Mexico City, completed in 2006. One tower is a conventional glass-and-steel tower. But the second could be a corrugated steel barrel resting on its side.
Architect: Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta and Enrique Norten
This boutique hotel, remodeled in 2000, had been a derelict, five-story apartment building from the 1950s. It was redesigned by a pair of Mexico’s leading architects when they were partners in TEN Arquitectos. Located in Polanco, one of Mexico City’s traditional residential and commercial neighborhoods, this minimalist building has won several international awards, including the BusinessWeek/Architectural Record award in 2003.
Fire Station “Phoenix Bird”
Architect: Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta, Julio Amezcua, Francisco Pardo, and Hugo Sánchez
The work of architects from at. 103 and bgp arquitectos, this 2006 structure houses a fire station and a separate section for the general public to learn about firefighting. By day the station’s aluminum facade reflects the sky. By night it’s accented by a vertical pattern of internal lights and the red-flashing lights of emergency vehicles. Inside, fire-engine-red transparent walls and classic fireman’s poles remind visitors of the building’s main mission.
Architect: Zeidler Partnership Architects and Adamson Associates Architects
The tallest building in Latin America, Torre Mayor rises 738 feet above Mexico City’s most important avenue, Paseo de la Reforma. Built by Toronto developer Paul Reichmann and inaugurated in 2003, it was downtown Mexico City’s first important skyscraper since the devastating 1985 earthquake. The green-glass and stone tower features 98 mammoth shock absorbers to protect the structure from a temblor of up to 8.5 on the Richter scale.
Architect: Ricardo Legorreta
Some of Mexico City’s best-loved buildings are decades old. Case in point: the Camino Real, which opened in 1968, just in time for the Olympics Games hosted by Mexico. Designed by renowned Mexican architect Legorreta, now 78, the 712-room, five-star hotel is one of the best examples of Mexican modern architecture. Legorreta is known for his use of bright colors—pink, purple, yellow, blue—the interplay of light and shadow, and bold geometric shapes.
Monterrey Institute of Technology & Higher Education Santa Fé Campus
Architect: Legorreta + Legorreta
The Santa Fé campus in Mexico City of the Tec de Monterrey was designed by Legorreta + Legorreta, the father-son team of Ricardo and Victor Legorreta. It was completed in 2001, nearly four decades after Legorreta senior founded his architecture practice in 1963.
Plaza Juarez Complex
Architect: Legorreta + Legorreta
This complex filled in a site that had been badly damaged by Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake. It includes two midrise office towers for the government’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and Superior Court. They form a modern backdrop for the restored, colonial-era Corpus Christi church. The most eye-catching piece may be a “water mirror” containing more than 1,000 partially submerged pyramids made of red concrete.
Architect: Rogers, Stirk Harbour Partners, and Legorreta + Legorreta
Legorreta also has had a hand in designing this 50-story tower, which will be located near the Torre Mayor building on Paseo de la Reforma and Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park. The high-rise, to be completed in 2013, will boast gardens on every ninth floor and will serve as the new headquarters of BBVA Bancomer, Mexico’s largest commercial bank, which is owned by Spain’s BBVA.
Architect: Fernando Romero
Scheduled to open by year-end, the Soumaya Museum will house Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s fast-growing collection of 66,000 art objects. Designed by Slim’s 38-year-old son-in-law, the building is part of an office-residential-cultural complex in a former industrial zone of Mexico City. The building’s facade will be covered with more than 16,000 hexagonal plates made of shiny aluminum.
Information taken from BusinessWeek