historical context

Mario Pani´s Tlatelolco, plaza de las 3 culturas, Mexico DF

Mario Pani´s Tlatelolco, plaza de las 3 culturas, Mexico DF

The residential urban complex of Tlatelolco, completed in 1964, became the second biggest of its kind on the American continent (after co-op city in the Bronx). It was part of Mexico´s ambitious move towards modernization. Architect Mario Pani, a contemporary of Le Corbusier, was set on bringing Functional Modernist architecture to Mexico with his Conjunto Urbano Nonoalco Tlatelolco; a utopic middleclass paradise. His ambitious project was carefully timed to be completed a few years before Mexico was to host the Olympics. 

Pani´s dream was short-lived though, only 4 years after its completion and 10 days before the Olympics opening ceremony in 1968 the government massacred hundreds of students during a peaceful student protest in-front of Tlatelolco´s Chihuahua Building. Tragedy was to strike again less than two decades later when hundreds more were killed after the Nuevo Leon building collapsed in the 1985 earthquake. 

After the earthquake most of Pani´s buildings were significantly transformed: The large panels which gave the buildings their “skin” were removed when they were discovered to be flammable and the source of a series of fires, destroying the sleek, uniform, square shape of the windows. Many of the buildings were “shortened” by 3 floors, some deemed unsafe and demolished altogether, and others had massive concrete columns built on their facade to make them safer and stronger. 

Today, Tlatelolco bares the scars of history. Far removed from Pani´s vision, eroded by tragedy, it exists as a city that defines itself on its own terms.