clock menu more-arrow no yes

A Map of Mexico City's Modern Architecture

View as Map

On this Cinco de Mayo, (which commemorates a Mexican victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862—not Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16) Curbed is taking a look at standout architecture across the country.

It's been referred to as MeMo—Mexico's moment—a sign that this kinetic, chaotic metropolis of millions is being recognized as the cultural and design capital natives have always known it to be. While the phrase is a play off a recent PR campaign that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has used to rebrand his country, it also speaks truth to the way cutting-edge Mexican architects are becoming more in-demand at home and abroad. But the unique synthesis of Aztec and indigenous elements, modernist philosophies and daring design hasn't popped up overnight. For much of the 20th century, architectural masterworks by practitioners such as Luis Barragán, Felix Candela and Pedro Ramírez Vázquez have defined the city's landscape. Here is a cross-section of ten important buildings that help define the built environment in the city of palaces.


· Previous Mexico coverage [Curbed]

Read More

1. Museo Soumaya

Copy Link
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Base 3, 11529 México
D.F., Mexico

A 2011 addition to Mexico’s architectural and cultural scene named after the late wife of the world’s richest man, this art museum is understandably flashy. Billionaire Carlos Slim’s paean to his wife, Soumaya, has been called a “rockabilly coif” by architecture critics for its profile and magnitude. Designed by Slim’s son-in-law Fernando Romero, with engineering help from Arup and Frank Gehry, the museum is both a testament to Slim’s fortune, showcasing his collection of 65,000 works of art, as well as his business sense. The facade of 16,000 reflective aluminum tiles was manufactured by a company he owns, and the steel columns supporting those tiles were designed by his own oil rigging company.

2. The Museum of Anthropology

Copy Link
Paseo de la Reforma & Mahatma Gandhi, Bosque de Chapultepec I, 11100 México
D.F., Mexico

Both a son of Mexico City and one of the country’s most respected architects, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez designed this landmark 1964 museum so his countrymen would “feel proud of being Mexican” after leaving. Elevating classic Aztec motifs with a world-renowned design, this museum at the base of Chapultepec Park seems to have accomplished his goal. Centered around an umbrella-like mushroom fountain, the marble-clad structure boasts 26 exhibition rooms. Scores of patterns and flourishes — a concrete imprint of an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a serpent, an aluminum grill that recalls slithering snakes, a hammered bronze column recalling a mythological tree — tell the design history of early Mexican civilization.

3. Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM)

Copy Link
Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Circuito Exterior S/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, 04510 México
D.F., Mexico

A sprawling campus that functions as a survey course of modern Mexican architecture, UNAM, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, became cutting-edge for an age-old reason. Politicians in the middle of the 20th century decided that having liberal students prone to protest conveniently massed in the city center campus wasn’t a great idea, so they asked architects to start from scratch and build new facilities on an old lava field. The results are nothing short of stunning, featuring a huge central quad, Juan O' Gorman’s incredible library mural and Felix Candela's Cosmic Ray pavilion, showcasing his mastery of the curved form.

4. Camino Real

Copy Link
General Mariano Escobedo 700, Bosque de Chapultepec I, 11590 México
D.F., Mexico

Ricardo Legorreta’s bold, blocky color design for this hotel, sort of a Memphis-style take on a Mexican city block, almost didn't happen. Supposedly, the initial design called for a taller, tower-like building, but since the structure was set to rest on unstable ground, Legorreta opted for a shorter set of buildings interspersed with impeccable courtyards. The striking pink latticed gates set the stage for a grand piece of pop architecture.

5. Arcos Bosques

Copy Link
Bosque de Alisos 47A, Palo Alto(Granjas), Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 05110 México
D.F., Mexico

Composed of two sets of twin towers that play out like some architectural version of a Wrigley’s Doublemint commercial, this shopping and retail complex boasts some of the city’s most playful structures. Teodoro González’s 1996 Arcos Bosques Torre I, a pair of 36-story tall towers joined by a lintel, is commonly known as El Pantalón ("The Trousers"). The newer Arcos Bosques Torre II doesn’t have the same name recognition, but boasts a similarly unique profile, linked in the middle with a series of connecting floors.

6. Estadio Azteca

Copy Link
Calzada de Tlalpan 3665, Bosques de Tetlameya, 04730 México
D.F., Mexico

Designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, this is holy ground for Mexican soccer fans and one of the world’s most iconic stadiums. Located on ground carved from volcanic rock and perched high above the city, the three-tierred stadium provides an advantage to the home team due to both the high altitude as well as the design, which funnels the sound of 100,000 cheering fans towards center field. Vázquez spent years touring Europe and studying the best stadiums of the day before sketching this icon.

7. Agustín Hernández Navarro's Praxis Home

Copy Link
Paseo de Los Paseo Ahuehuetes Norte PTA4, Bosques de Las Lomas, Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 11700 México
D.F., Mexico

Known as a proponent of what he called "emotional" architecture, Agustín Hernández Navarro appeared to be feeling all the feelings when he designed his own residence, the otherworldly Praxis Home, in 1970. The theory behind this suspended, angular home and studio was to showcase custom furniture and an airy interior while proving diagonal walls weren’t a waste of space.

8. Luis Barragán House and Studio

Copy Link
Luis Barragán House and Studio, Daniel Garza, 11840 Mexico City
Federal District, Mexico

This simple, striking home, Luis Barragán’s residence for 40 years, showcases the design concepts that he would help make a stand-in for Modern Mexican style. Behind an anonymous residential facade sits a thesis on bold colors and geometric forms, designed so as to rely almost solely on natural light throughout the day. Barragán’s integration of bright colors and fields of light created a haven and landmark interior, which provides an oasis from the “urban chaos.”

9. Los Manantiales

Copy Link
Canal Principal, San Jerónimo, Xochimilco, 16420 México
D.F., Mexico

Felix Candela’s technical and artistic mastery of concrete gave the world the stunning glass-lined ceiling of Havana’s Tropicana and an incredible aquarium in Valencia, but this restaurant in the Xochimilco area of Mexico City found him beginning to establish his vision. A replacement for a proposed wooden restaurant, the soaring vaults and thin roof, bent like paper around the dining room, earned the nickname “La Flor” (the flower) from locals.

10. Torre Insignia

Copy Link
S Ricardo Flores Magón, Unidad Popular Emiliano Zapata, 01400 México
D.F., Mexico

This wedge-shaped building on the north side of Mexico City, once the corporate headquarters of Banobras, is an emblem of the city and a survivor of multiple earthquakes. One of the first high-rises in the capital when it was finished in 1962, this prism is currently set to be renovated after years of disuse.

Loading comments...

1. Museo Soumaya

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Base 3, 11529 México, D.F., Mexico

A 2011 addition to Mexico’s architectural and cultural scene named after the late wife of the world’s richest man, this art museum is understandably flashy. Billionaire Carlos Slim’s paean to his wife, Soumaya, has been called a “rockabilly coif” by architecture critics for its profile and magnitude. Designed by Slim’s son-in-law Fernando Romero, with engineering help from Arup and Frank Gehry, the museum is both a testament to Slim’s fortune, showcasing his collection of 65,000 works of art, as well as his business sense. The facade of 16,000 reflective aluminum tiles was manufactured by a company he owns, and the steel columns supporting those tiles were designed by his own oil rigging company.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Base 3, 11529 México
D.F., Mexico

2. The Museum of Anthropology

Paseo de la Reforma & Mahatma Gandhi, Bosque de Chapultepec I, 11100 México, D.F., Mexico

Both a son of Mexico City and one of the country’s most respected architects, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez designed this landmark 1964 museum so his countrymen would “feel proud of being Mexican” after leaving. Elevating classic Aztec motifs with a world-renowned design, this museum at the base of Chapultepec Park seems to have accomplished his goal. Centered around an umbrella-like mushroom fountain, the marble-clad structure boasts 26 exhibition rooms. Scores of patterns and flourishes — a concrete imprint of an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a serpent, an aluminum grill that recalls slithering snakes, a hammered bronze column recalling a mythological tree — tell the design history of early Mexican civilization.

Paseo de la Reforma & Mahatma Gandhi, Bosque de Chapultepec I, 11100 México
D.F., Mexico

3. Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM)

Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Circuito Exterior S/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, 04510 México, D.F., Mexico

A sprawling campus that functions as a survey course of modern Mexican architecture, UNAM, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, became cutting-edge for an age-old reason. Politicians in the middle of the 20th century decided that having liberal students prone to protest conveniently massed in the city center campus wasn’t a great idea, so they asked architects to start from scratch and build new facilities on an old lava field. The results are nothing short of stunning, featuring a huge central quad, Juan O' Gorman’s incredible library mural and Felix Candela's Cosmic Ray pavilion, showcasing his mastery of the curved form.

Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Circuito Exterior S/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, 04510 México
D.F., Mexico

4. Camino Real

General Mariano Escobedo 700, Bosque de Chapultepec I, 11590 México, D.F., Mexico

Ricardo Legorreta’s bold, blocky color design for this hotel, sort of a Memphis-style take on a Mexican city block, almost didn't happen. Supposedly, the initial design called for a taller, tower-like building, but since the structure was set to rest on unstable ground, Legorreta opted for a shorter set of buildings interspersed with impeccable courtyards. The striking pink latticed gates set the stage for a grand piece of pop architecture.

General Mariano Escobedo 700, Bosque de Chapultepec I, 11590 México
D.F., Mexico

5. Arcos Bosques

Bosque de Alisos 47A, Palo Alto(Granjas), Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 05110 México, D.F., Mexico

Composed of two sets of twin towers that play out like some architectural version of a Wrigley’s Doublemint commercial, this shopping and retail complex boasts some of the city’s most playful structures. Teodoro González’s 1996 Arcos Bosques Torre I, a pair of 36-story tall towers joined by a lintel, is commonly known as El Pantalón ("The Trousers"). The newer Arcos Bosques Torre II doesn’t have the same name recognition, but boasts a similarly unique profile, linked in the middle with a series of connecting floors.

Bosque de Alisos 47A, Palo Alto(Granjas), Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 05110 México
D.F., Mexico

6. Estadio Azteca

Calzada de Tlalpan 3665, Bosques de Tetlameya, 04730 México, D.F., Mexico

Designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, this is holy ground for Mexican soccer fans and one of the world’s most iconic stadiums. Located on ground carved from volcanic rock and perched high above the city, the three-tierred stadium provides an advantage to the home team due to both the high altitude as well as the design, which funnels the sound of 100,000 cheering fans towards center field. Vázquez spent years touring Europe and studying the best stadiums of the day before sketching this icon.

Calzada de Tlalpan 3665, Bosques de Tetlameya, 04730 México
D.F., Mexico

7. Agustín Hernández Navarro's Praxis Home

Paseo de Los Paseo Ahuehuetes Norte PTA4, Bosques de Las Lomas, Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 11700 México, D.F., Mexico

Known as a proponent of what he called "emotional" architecture, Agustín Hernández Navarro appeared to be feeling all the feelings when he designed his own residence, the otherworldly Praxis Home, in 1970. The theory behind this suspended, angular home and studio was to showcase custom furniture and an airy interior while proving diagonal walls weren’t a waste of space.

Paseo de Los Paseo Ahuehuetes Norte PTA4, Bosques de Las Lomas, Cuajimalpa de Morelos, 11700 México
D.F., Mexico

8. Luis Barragán House and Studio

Luis Barragán House and Studio, Daniel Garza, 11840 Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico

This simple, striking home, Luis Barragán’s residence for 40 years, showcases the design concepts that he would help make a stand-in for Modern Mexican style. Behind an anonymous residential facade sits a thesis on bold colors and geometric forms, designed so as to rely almost solely on natural light throughout the day. Barragán’s integration of bright colors and fields of light created a haven and landmark interior, which provides an oasis from the “urban chaos.”

Luis Barragán House and Studio, Daniel Garza, 11840 Mexico City
Federal District, Mexico

9. Los Manantiales

Canal Principal, San Jerónimo, Xochimilco, 16420 México, D.F., Mexico

Felix Candela’s technical and artistic mastery of concrete gave the world the stunning glass-lined ceiling of Havana’s Tropicana and an incredible aquarium in Valencia, but this restaurant in the Xochimilco area of Mexico City found him beginning to establish his vision. A replacement for a proposed wooden restaurant, the soaring vaults and thin roof, bent like paper around the dining room, earned the nickname “La Flor” (the flower) from locals.

Canal Principal, San Jerónimo, Xochimilco, 16420 México
D.F., Mexico

10. Torre Insignia

S Ricardo Flores Magón, Unidad Popular Emiliano Zapata, 01400 México, D.F., Mexico

This wedge-shaped building on the north side of Mexico City, once the corporate headquarters of Banobras, is an emblem of the city and a survivor of multiple earthquakes. One of the first high-rises in the capital when it was finished in 1962, this prism is currently set to be renovated after years of disuse.

S Ricardo Flores Magón, Unidad Popular Emiliano Zapata, 01400 México
D.F., Mexico