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The best things to do in Mexico City if you love design

Yes, visit the Zócalo and Casa Azul. And then catch these 25 must-see spots around the Mexican capital

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One of the world’s largest metropolises, Mexico City has long been a source of inspiration for artists, architects, and designers. The Mexican capital’s rich history and diverse creative scene has positioned it atop many places-to-visit lists in recent years. And though some were quick to declare it “the new Berlin,” its unique mix of traditional and contemporary culture places the city in a category all its own.

On offer in the capital city: Pre-Hispanic ruins, modernist buildings with distinctly Mexican style, and some of the best contemporary architecture and art galleries. We’ve rounded up the 25 places you can’t miss on your next visit. (Points are organized from the center of the city outward.)

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Casa Estudio Luis Barragán

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Luis Barragán, the only Pritzker Prize-winning architect to hail from Mexico, built this home and studio for himself in 1948 and was its sole inhabitant until he died in 1988. The home’s surreptitious facade offers little hint to what one will encounter once inside: an abundant collection of books, art, and religious ornaments dear to Barragán, as well as a lush garden and colorful rooftop perfect for solitary meditation. Visits are available by appointment only, and they sell out quickly, so plan ahead!

Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura

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Located next to Casa Estudio Luis Barragán, Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura is a space dedicated to the research and exhibition of design. The modernist residence was purchased in 2010 by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who initially intended to use it as an office but soon decided to open Archivo instead. You can preview its current exhibitions here.

Kurimanzutto

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The San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood is home to Kurimanzutto, one of Mexico City’s leading contemporary art galleries. Completed in 2008 by architect Alberto Kalach, the restored warehouse brings light into the space by opening up two courtyards on each end of the gallery.

Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo

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Designed in 1972 by architects Teodoro González de León and Abraham Zabludovsky, Museo Tamayo is a Brutalist masterpiece of concrete and crushed marble located in the middle of Mexico City’s Bosque Chapultepec, one of the largest urban parks in the Western Hemisphere. Though the building itself is worth a visit, Museo Tamayo’s contemporary art exhibitions are consistently among the best the city has to offer. On your way out, stop by the gift shop, which offers a well-curated, diverse array of contemporary Mexican design.

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Museo Nacional de Antropología

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A short walk away from Museo Tamayo stands the Museo de Antropología, Mexico’s largest and most-visited museum. One of Mexico’s greatest modernist architects, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, designed the monumental building, along with Jorge Campuzano and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca. A series of exhibition halls surround a wide courtyard and tell the stories of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations through objects that have been recovered by anthropologists throughout history.

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Paseo de la Reforma

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Paseo de la Reforma is one of Mexico City’s most important avenues, and was modelled after Paris’s Champs Elysées. Some of Mexico’s tallest towers, including Torre Mayor, Torre Bancomer, and Torre Reforma, can be found along this street, as well as statues like El Ángel, where it is common for locals to shut down the street and celebrate national events like a victorious World Cup match or a Mexican film director’s Oscar win.

Museo Jumex

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Museo Jumex, designed by English architect David Chipperfield, is one of Latin America’s leading contemporary art museums. Its three unique gallery spaces—each located on a different floor—allow for the museum’s ever-changing program to include a wide variety of exhibition types. A public square outside the entrance often hosts temporary large-scale installations, or serves as a stage for performances.

Roma and Condesa neighborhoods

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Separated by Insurgentes Avenue, arts districts Roma and Condesa are currently two of Mexico City’s most vibrant neighborhoods, where an abundance of architectural styles—from eclecticism to Art Deco—come together in myriad parks and public squares. Lined with restaurants and small shops, Colima Street in Roma is perfect for an afternoon stroll. Nearby, the larger Álvaro Obregón Avenue is where you’ll find bars and great street food. Condesa’s main parks, Parque México and Parque España, are surrounded by sidewalk restaurants and coffee shops perfect for a relaxed afternoon.

Coyoacán

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The southern part of Mexico City is home to Coyoacán, one of the city’s most emblematic neighborhoods. Its historic center, called Villa Coyoacán, is made up of cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and small plazas surrounded by shops and restaurants. Unlike other, more gentrified neighborhoods, Coyoacán has a notably bohemian vibe.

Espacio Escultórico UNAM

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Espacio Escultórico, a monumental work of land art built in 1979 and the brainchild of six Mexican artists, is one of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) most emblematic sites to visit, and stands as a testament to the strong geometric abstraction movement in 20th-century Mexico. The site features six large-scale sculptures that establish a dialogue with their natural surroundings. Recent pushes to develop the area around Espacio Escultório—and potentially interrupt the views from within the work—have been met with fierce resistance.

University City

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Designed in the 1950s by architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007, Ciudad Universitaria is the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Though visitors can wander freely for hours exploring its many patios and gardens, one structure stands out as C.U.’s most iconic: the Central Library, a rectangular building covered in the world’s largest mural, created by Juan O’Gorman.

Casa O'Gorman

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Casa O’Gorman is widely regarded as the first Functionalist house in Mexico, and is clearly influenced by the design principles of Le Corbusier. Completed in 1929, it was designed and inhabited by architect and muralist Juan O’Gorman, a key figure in the history of 20th-century Mexican architecture. (Psst: It’s also available to rent.)

Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

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In 1931, Diego Rivera—Mexican muralist and husband to Frida Kahlo, arguably Mexco’s most famous artist—commissioned architect Juan O’Gorman to design this home and studio for the couple. Two separate homes—one for each artist—are united by a bridge, a metaphor for the couple’s love. The building’s design was deeply influenced by the work of Le Corbusier, and is one of Latin America’s first built examples of Functionalist architecture. Today, the buildings house a museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting Kahlo’s and Rivera’s work and personal art collections.

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Los Manantiales

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Celebrated architect Félix Candela is best known for his thin-shell structures and masterful use of the hyperbolic paraboloid in his buildings. Though the restaurant Los Manantiales has certainly seen better days, it’s still worth a visit, especially on Sunday afternoons when locals go to eat, drink, and dance to live music.

Xochimilco

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After enjoying a meal at Los Manantiales, stop by the Xochimilco lake and rent a traditional boat, called a trajinera, that will take you through the canals for an hourly rate of 500 Mexican pesos (about $26). Xochimilco is a popular, family-friendly destination for locals and tourists alike. You can bring your own food and drinks, or purchase them from passing boats. Be sure to rent a speaker from your guide so you can enjoy your own playlist while aboard!

Casa Pedregal

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Casa Pedregal, formerly Casa Prieto, is the largest home ever designed by the late Mexican architect Luis Barragán. The Prieto family inhabited it from 1951 to 2013, a period during which the building underwent significant changes by the hands of its proprietors. Upon acquiring it, its current owner César Cervantes hired architect Jorge Covarrubias to restore the home.

Today, nearly 100 percent of the property’s total area is back to the initial state in which Barragán delivered it in 1951. The architect’s modernist-meets-vernacular architectural style is strongly present in the home, and the house is enveloped by a breathtaking landscape of volcanic stone and cacti. Visits can be scheduled here.

Tetetlán

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Located next to Casa Pedregal, Tetetlán functions as a space that seeks to promote personal and social development through arts and culture. César Cervantes purchased Casa Pedregal in 2013 and commissioned architect Jorge Covarrubias to design a cultural center adjacent to the home. The space offers a restaurant, library, exercise studio, and gallery, as well as a fair-trade market on Saturday mornings.

Museo Anahuacalli

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Mexican muralist Diego Rivera designed and built this museum in 1941 to display his private collection of Pre-Hispanic figurines, as well as some of his own work. For its location, Rivera chose El Pedregal, a neighborhood in the south of the city characterized by its petrified lava grounds, which, at the time, was an infinite source of inspiration for some of Mexico’s leading architects, designers, and artists, among them Luis Barragán, Max Cetto, and Dr. Atl. The building was conceived as a habitable work of art, and with it Rivera sought to link the Pre-Columbine aesthetic to Mexico’s modern art movement.

Mercado Lagunilla

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On Sunday mornings, sellers of antiques and vintage goods gather in the Morelos neighborhood for the Lagunilla market, or tianguis. Due to its immense variety of unique furniture, art, homeware, and more, a stop by Lagunilla is a must for any design enthusiast staying in Mexico City.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

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Though the Palacio de Bellas Artes building features many architectural styles, Art Nouveau and Art Deco are the most prominent ones on display. The construction was completed in 1934, and today it hosts important cultural events and art exhibitions. The buildings that surround the Palacio de Bellas Artes are also notable, including the Latinoamericana Tower and the La Nacional building.

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Museo Nacional De Arte (MUNAL)

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The National Museum of Art (MUNAL), designed in the early 20th century by Italian architect Silvio Contri, is located in Mexico City’s historic center. Its permanent collection is comprised of Mexican and international art ranging from the 16th century to the first half of the 20th century. The eclectic building is the former Palace of Communications.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos

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The Buenavista neighborhood is home to the Vasconcelos Library, a massive structure of concrete, glass, and steel that is unlike anything else in the city. Artist Gabriel Orozco’s sculpture of a whale skeleton hangs from the ceiling at the center of the library, which harbors over 600,000 books, magazines, and newspapers. Though any architecture enthusiast will marvel at the building, designed by Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar, the botanic garden that surrounds it is equally impressive and should not be missed.

Nido de Quetzalcóatl

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Architect Javier Senosiain’s organic masterpiece Nido de Quetzalcoatl is without a doubt one of Mexico City’s most unique attractions. The project is made up of 10 residences, surrounded by a garden filled with surreal, colorful structures in the shapes of different animals, including a shark, snake, and snail. One of the homes is available to rent, and houses up to eight people. You can also schedule a visit here.

Plaza de las Tres Culturas

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The Plaza de las Tres Culturas is a public square located in the city’s Tlatelolco neighborhood, an area of the capital that has a complex history. The square was the site of the 1968 student massacre of Tlatelolco, and is now flanked by a memorial commemorating the victims. It is also located next to the remains of a massive housing complex designed by architect Mario Pani in the 1960s. Initially, the complex was modeled after the idealistic housing design principles of Le Corbusier, but the 1985 Mexico City earthquake caused the immediate collapse of one of the buildings, and several others had to be demolished soon after. Today, not unlike many other massive housing projects built in the 20th century, it is in a state of disrepair.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, and legend has it, she appeared to Saint Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in 1531, and cast her image upon a cloak he was carrying so he could prove that he had seen her. Today, the cloak is displayed inside the new Basílica de Guadalupe, which was designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and opened to the public in 1976. The building is one of the most impressive works of modernist architecture in the country and is visited by millions of people every year.

Shutterstock

Casa Estudio Luis Barragán

Luis Barragán, the only Pritzker Prize-winning architect to hail from Mexico, built this home and studio for himself in 1948 and was its sole inhabitant until he died in 1988. The home’s surreptitious facade offers little hint to what one will encounter once inside: an abundant collection of books, art, and religious ornaments dear to Barragán, as well as a lush garden and colorful rooftop perfect for solitary meditation. Visits are available by appointment only, and they sell out quickly, so plan ahead!

Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura

Located next to Casa Estudio Luis Barragán, Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura is a space dedicated to the research and exhibition of design. The modernist residence was purchased in 2010 by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who initially intended to use it as an office but soon decided to open Archivo instead. You can preview its current exhibitions here.

Kurimanzutto

The San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood is home to Kurimanzutto, one of Mexico City’s leading contemporary art galleries. Completed in 2008 by architect Alberto Kalach, the restored warehouse brings light into the space by opening up two courtyards on each end of the gallery.

Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo

Shutterstock

Designed in 1972 by architects Teodoro González de León and Abraham Zabludovsky, Museo Tamayo is a Brutalist masterpiece of concrete and crushed marble located in the middle of Mexico City’s Bosque Chapultepec, one of the largest urban parks in the Western Hemisphere. Though the building itself is worth a visit, Museo Tamayo’s contemporary art exhibitions are consistently among the best the city has to offer. On your way out, stop by the gift shop, which offers a well-curated, diverse array of contemporary Mexican design.

Shutterstock

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Shutterstock

A short walk away from Museo Tamayo stands the Museo de Antropología, Mexico’s largest and most-visited museum. One of Mexico’s greatest modernist architects, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, designed the monumental building, along with Jorge Campuzano and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca. A series of exhibition halls surround a wide courtyard and tell the stories of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations through objects that have been recovered by anthropologists throughout history.

Shutterstock

Paseo de la Reforma

Paseo de la Reforma is one of Mexico City’s most important avenues, and was modelled after Paris’s Champs Elysées. Some of Mexico’s tallest towers, including Torre Mayor, Torre Bancomer, and Torre Reforma, can be found along this street, as well as statues like El Ángel, where it is common for locals to shut down the street and celebrate national events like a victorious World Cup match or a Mexican film director’s Oscar win.

Museo Jumex

Museo Jumex, designed by English architect David Chipperfield, is one of Latin America’s leading contemporary art museums. Its three unique gallery spaces—each located on a different floor—allow for the museum’s ever-changing program to include a wide variety of exhibition types. A public square outside the entrance often hosts temporary large-scale installations, or serves as a stage for performances.

Roma and Condesa neighborhoods

Separated by Insurgentes Avenue, arts districts Roma and Condesa are currently two of Mexico City’s most vibrant neighborhoods, where an abundance of architectural styles—from eclecticism to Art Deco—come together in myriad parks and public squares. Lined with restaurants and small shops, Colima Street in Roma is perfect for an afternoon stroll. Nearby, the larger Álvaro Obregón Avenue is where you’ll find bars and great street food. Condesa’s main parks, Parque México and Parque España, are surrounded by sidewalk restaurants and coffee shops perfect for a relaxed afternoon.

Coyoacán

The southern part of Mexico City is home to Coyoacán, one of the city’s most emblematic neighborhoods. Its historic center, called Villa Coyoacán, is made up of cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and small plazas surrounded by shops and restaurants. Unlike other, more gentrified neighborhoods, Coyoacán has a notably bohemian vibe.

Espacio Escultórico UNAM

Espacio Escultórico, a monumental work of land art built in 1979 and the brainchild of six Mexican artists, is one of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) most emblematic sites to visit, and stands as a testament to the strong geometric abstraction movement in 20th-century Mexico. The site features six large-scale sculptures that establish a dialogue with their natural surroundings. Recent pushes to develop the area around Espacio Escultório—and potentially interrupt the views from within the work—have been met with fierce resistance.

University City

Designed in the 1950s by architects Mario Pani and Enrique del Moral and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007, Ciudad Universitaria is the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Though visitors can wander freely for hours exploring its many patios and gardens, one structure stands out as C.U.’s most iconic: the Central Library, a rectangular building covered in the world’s largest mural, created by Juan O’Gorman.

Casa O'Gorman

Casa O’Gorman is widely regarded as the first Functionalist house in Mexico, and is clearly influenced by the design principles of Le Corbusier. Completed in 1929, it was designed and inhabited by architect and muralist Juan O’Gorman, a key figure in the history of 20th-century Mexican architecture. (Psst: It’s also available to rent.)

Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo

Shutterstock

In 1931, Diego Rivera—Mexican muralist and husband to Frida Kahlo, arguably Mexco’s most famous artist—commissioned architect Juan O’Gorman to design this home and studio for the couple. Two separate homes—one for each artist—are united by a bridge, a metaphor for the couple’s love. The building’s design was deeply influenced by the work of Le Corbusier, and is one of Latin America’s first built examples of Functionalist architecture. Today, the buildings house a museum dedicated to preserving and exhibiting Kahlo’s and Rivera’s work and personal art collections.

Shutterstock

Los Manantiales

Celebrated architect Félix Candela is best known for his thin-shell structures and masterful use of the hyperbolic paraboloid in his buildings. Though the restaurant Los Manantiales has certainly seen better days, it’s still worth a visit, especially on Sunday afternoons when locals go to eat, drink, and dance to live music.

Xochimilco

After enjoying a meal at Los Manantiales, stop by the Xochimilco lake and rent a traditional boat, called a trajinera, that will take you through the canals for an hourly rate of 500 Mexican pesos (about $26). Xochimilco is a popular, family-friendly destination for locals and tourists alike. You can bring your own food and drinks, or purchase them from passing boats. Be sure to rent a speaker from your guide so you can enjoy your own playlist while aboard!

Casa Pedregal

Casa Pedregal, formerly Casa Prieto, is the largest home ever designed by the late Mexican architect Luis Barragán. The Prieto family inhabited it from 1951 to 2013, a period during which the building underwent significant changes by the hands of its proprietors. Upon acquiring it, its current owner César Cervantes hired architect Jorge Covarrubias to restore the home.

Today, nearly 100 percent of the property’s total area is back to the initial state in which Barragán delivered it in 1951. The architect’s modernist-meets-vernacular architectural style is strongly present in the home, and the house is enveloped by a breathtaking landscape of volcanic stone and cacti. Visits can be scheduled here.

Tetetlán

Located next to Casa Pedregal, Tetetlán functions as a space that seeks to promote personal and social development through arts and culture. César Cervantes purchased Casa Pedregal in 2013 and commissioned architect Jorge Covarrubias to design a cultural center adjacent to the home. The space offers a restaurant, library, exercise studio, and gallery, as well as a fair-trade market on Saturday mornings.

Museo Anahuacalli

Mexican muralist Diego Rivera designed and built this museum in 1941 to display his private collection of Pre-Hispanic figurines, as well as some of his own work. For its location, Rivera chose El Pedregal, a neighborhood in the south of the city characterized by its petrified lava grounds, which, at the time, was an infinite source of inspiration for some of Mexico’s leading architects, designers, and artists, among them Luis Barragán, Max Cetto, and Dr. Atl. The building was conceived as a habitable work of art, and with it Rivera sought to link the Pre-Columbine aesthetic to Mexico’s modern art movement.

Mercado Lagunilla

On Sunday mornings, sellers of antiques and vintage goods gather in the Morelos neighborhood for the Lagunilla market, or tianguis. Due to its immense variety of unique furniture, art, homeware, and more, a stop by Lagunilla is a must for any design enthusiast staying in Mexico City.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Shutterstock

Though the Palacio de Bellas Artes building features many architectural styles, Art Nouveau and Art Deco are the most prominent ones on display. The construction was completed in 1934, and today it hosts important cultural events and art exhibitions. The buildings that surround the Palacio de Bellas Artes are also notable, including the Latinoamericana Tower and the La Nacional building.

Shutterstock

Museo Nacional De Arte (MUNAL)

The National Museum of Art (MUNAL), designed in the early 20th century by Italian architect Silvio Contri, is located in Mexico City’s historic center. Its permanent collection is comprised of Mexican and international art ranging from the 16th century to the first half of the 20th century. The eclectic building is the former Palace of Communications.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos

The Buenavista neighborhood is home to the Vasconcelos Library, a massive structure of concrete, glass, and steel that is unlike anything else in the city. Artist Gabriel Orozco’s sculpture of a whale skeleton hangs from the ceiling at the center of the library, which harbors over 600,000 books, magazines, and newspapers. Though any architecture enthusiast will marvel at the building, designed by Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar, the botanic garden that surrounds it is equally impressive and should not be missed.

Nido de Quetzalcóatl

Architect Javier Senosiain’s organic masterpiece Nido de Quetzalcoatl is without a doubt one of Mexico City’s most unique attractions. The project is made up of 10 residences, surrounded by a garden filled with surreal, colorful structures in the shapes of different animals, including a shark, snake, and snail. One of the homes is available to rent, and houses up to eight people. You can also schedule a visit here.

Plaza de las Tres Culturas

The Plaza de las Tres Culturas is a public square located in the city’s Tlatelolco neighborhood, an area of the capital that has a complex history. The square was the site of the 1968 student massacre of Tlatelolco, and is now flanked by a memorial commemorating the victims. It is also located next to the remains of a massive housing complex designed by architect Mario Pani in the 1960s. Initially, the complex was modeled after the idealistic housing design principles of Le Corbusier, but the 1985 Mexico City earthquake caused the immediate collapse of one of the buildings, and several others had to be demolished soon after. Today, not unlike many other massive housing projects built in the 20th century, it is in a state of disrepair.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Shutterstock

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, and legend has it, she appeared to Saint Juan Diego on the Hill of Tepeyac in 1531, and cast her image upon a cloak he was carrying so he could prove that he had seen her. Today, the cloak is displayed inside the new Basílica de Guadalupe, which was designed by architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and opened to the public in 1976. The building is one of the most impressive works of modernist architecture in the country and is visited by millions of people every year.

Shutterstock