Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal

As I plan a trip to Mexico soon, somewhere I have been many times as a child, I can't help but do some research as I prepare for my trip as an adult. More specifically, an adult who loves design and architecture.

Mexico is a country built on tradition and history. As you tour its cities, you will see modern structures next to old, broken down buildings from ancient times. Rather than tear down and build new, much of the architectural philosophy is to build around and upward. Progress, but do not forget.

Maya civilization dominated southern Mesoamerica in the second half of the first millennium AD. Classic phase (600 to about 900) architecture (above) is characterized by an exquisite sense of proportion and design, seen in the structural refinement and subtle detailing.

The National Palace in Mexico City

The National Palace in Mexico City

Mexico's colonial history marked the collision of the European and Indigenous cultures, giving rise to a new form of art and architecture. Most colonial cities were planned around a plaza, which held the three main institutions: the cathedral, the administrative center (above) and the court.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes

During the 19th and early 20th century Emperor Maximilian I brought a new set of urban design ideas to Mexico. Drawing from the mid-century Parisian redevelopment plan, he built a broad new diagonal avenue called Paseo de la Reforma. This elegant boulevard ran for miles from the downtown National Palace to the lush Chapultepec Park where the Austrian ruler lived. Neo-Gothic designs incorporated into the monumental public buildings, including its cultural center (above).

La Torre Latinoamericana

La Torre Latinoamericana

As modern times began to impact the urban design of Mexico, functionalism, expressionism, and other schools would leave their imprint, combining techniques and stylistic elements of Europe and North American techniques.

The Soumaya Museum

It's quite interesting to see modern Mexico develop and how it seems to be coming around full circle. I can't help but notice the similarities between The Soumaya Museum (above), completed in 2011, and The Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal (top).

This stunningly modern structure houses one of the most important art collections in Latin America with over 6,200 artworks and 60,000 square feet of exhibition space.  It also includes an auditorium for 350 people, library, offices, a restaurant, a gift shop and a multi-purpose gathering lounge.

The Soumaya Museum  main floor

This stunning structure is located in a former industrial zone dating from the 1940’s, providing the opportunity to play a key role in the reconversion of the area as a cultural center and defining a new model for Mexican and international architecture.

Structurally, this organic and asymmetrical design is constructed with twenty eight steel curved columns of different diameters, offering a soft non-linear circulation all through the building. Located at each floor level, seven ring beams provide a system that braces the structure and guarantees its stability. It widens at the top, where a roof suspended from a cantilever allows natural daylight onto the top floor gallery. The windowless facade is composed of hexagonal aluminium tiles. Strategic track lighting is great for complimenting natural light. The lack of any modern furniture, such as benches, keeps the space clean and leaving the spotlight on the art.

The Soumaya Museum stairwell

The study of modern design and architecture would be endlessly entertaining, but understanding it's history provides inspiration at an entirely new level. The develpment of entire cities goes hand-in-hand with the culture of that particular civilization, giving the architecture that emerges immesurable personality.

Images: MVTPRD, Wikipedia, Open BuildingsThe Architect's Newspaper, Positive Magazine