Friday 14 November 2014

Mexico City Art Deco - "you can find it everywhere"

I visited Mexico City for the first time in December last year and immediately fell in love with the place. I enjoyed my visit so much that I returned earlier this month, less than a year later. One of the highlights of my 2013 visit was seeing the art deco buildings in the Condesa district. I had a second look at Condesa this month but thanks to Eduardo of Art Deco Mx, I also discovered many art deco and modernist buildings in other parts of the city. And there are lots of them. As Eduardo says of the style, "You can find it everywhere".  

Edificio Viena, Calle Lopez 34
A number of art deco apartment blocks cluster in the streets behind the Reforma boulevard, close to Alameda Central. Many of them are deteriorating and in a poor state of repair, but it doesn't take much  imagination to picture how very grand these streets must have been in the 1930's and 1940's with ornate doors, soaring towers and beautiful deco details.  

Calle Lopez is home to several of these apartment blocks. One of the most striking is Edificio Viena at number 34 which stands on a corner location at the junction with Articulo 123. It is captivating with its stunning pink facade, vertical stripes filled with geometric designs and fanned details between windows. The colour is broken up by sections of buff coloured brickwork, strangely reminiscent of some of Glasgow's older buildings whilst the still elegant main door tells the story of how affluent this part of the city must once have been. Like several of the buildings I will write about here, I have been unable to trace details of the architect or the dates so all information is very, very welcome.

A little further along Calle Lopez at the junction with Calle Victoria, stands Edificio Victoria, another beauty. The building which has shops on the ground floor, is simpler in style than Edificio Viena but still has a number of decorative details including floral designs, shields and greyhounds as well as a show stopping main door. Rigorous scanning of the internet has failed to reveal details of the architect or dates for the block.

Edificio Victoria, Calle Lopez 44.
Main door, Edificio Victoria, Calle Lopez 44
Calle Revillagigedo is a five minutes walk from Edificios Viena and Victoria. The Museum of Popular Arts, designed by architect Vicente Mendiola Quezada stands at number 11. Originally built as a fire station this supremely elegant white building dominates the street, not only because of its height, but also because of its decorative elements which include geometric shapes, stepped recesses and a flagpole. I especially like the blue and yellow waves just below the tower's summit which struck me as a reference to the beautiful multi-coloured domes of Mexico City's many churches. There are also panels on the exterior walls featuring Aztec designs. 

Mendiola Quezada studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, going on to design a number of buildings in the art deco style. He also worked as an academic, lecturing in urban planning, architectural history, art and design. A street is named for him elsewhere in the city.

Museum of Popular Arts, Calle Revilagigedo 11.
Happy as I was to spend time in this part of the city, I couldn't resist making another visit to Condesa which must have one of the richest collections and concentrations of art deco buildings anywhere in the world. Many are located in the two main avenues of the quarter - Avenida Amsterdam and Avenida Mexico but one of my favourites is a little blue painted house in Calle Ozuluama, built in 1931 and carrying the name of the architect Daniel Lopez. The house carries a number of art deco features including the floral motifs at the upper level and geometric shapes as well as some references to the earlier "California" style especially in the swirled stone columns dividing the windows at the upper level. But, the most outstanding feature of the house is its stunning front door. Beautifully recessed with an external lobby it is flanked by external lights covered in metal detail and a "skyscraper skyline" running from the front of the building into the recess. The door itself has beautiful glass panels with metal detailing in geometric patterns. 

Entrance, Calle Ozuluama 11
Detail, Calle Ozuluama 11.
Just around the corner on Avenida Amsterdam, I discovered two new favourites. Architect Francisco J. Serrano was responsible for a number of buildings in Condesa, including the delightful deco house at 110 Avenida Amsterdam. Although in need of some urgent love and care, it retains much of its original 1931 beauty with its curved windows, external decorative features referencing Aztec art and a beautiful metal gate with relief lines, swirls and flowers. Serrano was born in Mexico City and studied at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, where he later taught civil engineering and architecture. He was also responsible for Edificio Mexico on Avenida Mexico and the Pasaje Commercial on Avenue Masaryk in Polanco.

Just over the road from the Serrano designed house is Edificio Niza, an apartment block at 73 Avenida Amsterdam. Built in 1934, it has an interesting double entrance with adjoining doors on Avenida Amsterdam and Calle Parras, giving residents a choice of entrance. The exterior is extremely well maintained and eye catching with stylised vertical lettering on the doors showing the building's name and interesting use of contrasting colours - black, blue, orange and yellow in the entrance lobby which is visible from the street. I also like the squared-off canopy that separates the upper levels from the ground floor and the green "Tel Aviv" style curves of the higher floors. Just beautiful. Any details of the building's history, including the architect's name would be very welcome!

Avenida Amsterdam 110.
Avenida Amsterdam 110
Detail, Edificio Niza, Avenida Amsterdam 73.
Double entrance, Edificio Niza, Avenida Amsterdam 73.
Condesa is worthy of several articles, if not of a book, but in conclusion I continue Eduardo's theme of art deco being present throughout the city. The pictures below are of apartment buildings in the Centro Historico and in the area around the monument to the Revolution on Reforma. There is a dearth of documentation about these and many other Mexico City buildings from this period so I include only photographs for the moment. I think Eduardo needs to write a book...

Apartment bock, Calle Edison.
Apartmentos Tissot, Calle Baranda
Apartment block, Calle de Cuba
You might also like Mexico City - art deco treasure house or Picture Post number 35 Mexico City - the abandoned Fronton.

See more pictures of Mexico City here and here.

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