mexican brutalism: an introduction to mexico city’s brutalist architecture

the tamayo museum is representative of cdmx’s brutalism, culture, and history

mexico city boasts beautiful brutalist architecture, but unfortunately the city’s concrete structures aren’t as on the map as those of other cities, such as london’s or boston’s

this isn’t helped by mexican brutalism’s online search landscape, at least from an english-language perspective, where search results are dominated by this brutal house. the capital’s other concrete buildings deserve their share of the spotlight, but finding them requires a little digging

the lack of online resources geared towards mexico city’s brutal buildings - and mexican brutalism in general - is the inspiration behind this introductory guide to the brutalist architecture of mexico city:

mexico city brutalism - palmas 555

palmas 555 is an operating office building in the mexican capital. here the building is seen from avenida paseo de las palmas

palmas 555’s front façade. the building’s parapets are clad in dark aluminum

palmas 555 is one of mexican architect juan sordo madalenos’s most famous projects; it was he that designed it along with associate architects josé adolfo wiechers and josé ignacio de abiega. this operating office building, built in 1975, takes its name from its address, avenida paseo de las palmas 555

it is famous, perhaps, due to its striking design that sees the tower’s nine floors rise up in staggered formation. depending on how you look at it, the building appears to undulate, while sometimes giving off the impression that it is not particularly stable. the architect’s firm - sordo madaleno arquitectos (sma) - assures us the opposite is true: the building’s “rigid-frame structure transmits loads vertically” through its entire height 

palmas 555’s seemingly random displacement is actually a pattern that repeats every four floors

a detailed look at how each story sticks out from each other as viewed from ground level

the tower’s parapets are designed to shield the building’s windows from the sun

the firm states that each floor features “a solid parapet clad in dark aluminum above which there runs a perimeter ribbon window”. natalia yunis, whose words for archdaily are used by sma in their spanish-language site to describe the building (or vice-versa, it’s not clear), explains that the tower’s apparent movement serves to hide this glass perimeter, while the parapets protect palma 555’s façades from the sun. she also points out that the structure’s seemingly random displacement is actually a pattern that repeats every flour floors

palmas 555 is featured in katarimag’s list of 10 iconic brutalist buildings in latin america. it is located in the lomas de chapultepec neighborhood, roughly a mile southwest of the soumaya museum

  • architect: juan sordo madaleno
  • built: 1975
  • use: office
  • address: av. paseo de las palmas 555, lomas de chapultepec, miguel hidalgo, 11000 cuidad de méxico, cdmx, méxico

brutalist architecture mexico city - museo tamayo

the rufino tamayo museum’s design was envisioned by the artist himself

the museum’s name as it is engraved into the building’s grainy concrete exterior

the tamayo museum is a compact concrete structure calmly sitting at an important cultural crossroads in the mexican capital. nestled in the forest of chapultepec park, latin america’s largest park, and just steps from the national museum of anthropology, the building stands as an icon of the country’s cultural heritage in itself

this contemporary art museum was conceived by mexican painter rufino tamayo, who utilized the talents of architects teodoro gonzález de león and abraham zabludovsky to bring his idea to life in 1981. the result? a magnificent brutalist building and a work of art in itself that is influenced by pre-hispanic architecture. “[the building] is thought of as an additional piece of the museum’s collection,” writes karina duque for archdaily, “or the most important one”

the main entrance of the rufino tamayo museum. the musuem is located in the chapultepec park of mexico city, near the national museum of anthropology

the building, completed in 1981,  can be recognized as a piece of the museum in itself

the museum’s steps are used to emulate the museum’s pyramid design. the building as a whole is influenced by pre-hispanic architecture

youtuber sebastian estrada, who recorded his visit to the museum, describes feeling like he’s discovered archeological ruins upon seeing the tamayo. from its main entrance, the building does appear to take the shape of a pyramid’s base. this is highlighted by the slopes of earth that rise to meet the structure on its rear side, which helps cement the idea that the museum and its surrounding environment are one and the same. “the slopes are a fundamental part of its composition,” explains duque, “hinting that the museum rises from the ground like an additional tectonic plate”

the tamayo museum received the national architecture prize in 1981

  • architects: teodoro gonzález de león and abraham zabludovsky
  • built: 1981
  • use: contemporary art museum
  • address: av. paseo de la reforma 51, polanco, bosque de chapultepec 1 secc, miguel hidalgo, 11580 ciudad de méxico, cdmx, méxico

mexican brutalism - escuela de ballet folklórico de méxico

the trapezoidal shapes found in the school’s design are influenced by pre-hispanic architectural design

a person walks in front of the main entrance of the school as seen from violeta street

you’ll find mexico’s school of folkloric ballet, formally known as escuela de ballet folklórico de méxico de amalia hernández, on a quiet street just outside of mexico city’s historic center

this building sits on a corner among its neighboring residences just a ten-minute walk from the palace of fine arts. the school is easily distinguishable from its surroundings thanks to its front façade which draws heavily from geometric shapes

the school of folkloric ballet was founded by amalia hernández and designed by her brother, architect augustín hernández

hernández, a renowned architect, has several concrete works throughout the country

the school extends past its geometric front entrance along violeta street. classes are taught in the striped section of the building (pictured) and can be heard from the sidewalk

a detailed shot showcasing the juxtaposition of the school’s design elements

according to the school’s website, this concrete structure is another building that takes elements from pre-hispanic architecture. architect agustín hernández navarro - brother of amalia, the school’s founder - uses trapezoidal shapes in a design inspired by the “aesthetic of mayan pyramids.” the building was inaugarated in 1968

as with mexican brutalism at large, there are not that many resources available online that expand upon the school’s architecture, despite the renown of its visionary architect. hernández navarro’s other projects include his architecture workshop, a brutally beautiful building that seems plucked from a star wars set, and house in the air

  • architect: agustín hernández navarro
  • built: 1968
  • use: ballet school
  • address: violeta 31 esq. riva palacio, del. cuauhtémoc, guerrero, 06300 ciudad de méxico, cdmx, méxico

the world deserves to see the wonders of mexico city’s brutalist architecture. this introductory list is by no means definitive. other examples of mexican brutalism found in the country’s capital city include the marcos moshinky building at unam, the national auditorium, and the state of mexico boys and girls club. mxcity and provide additional lists on their sites

ian campo is an architectural photographer specializing in brutalism and the concrete structures that define the style. his work is available for purchase here. follow ian on instagram

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