From the Utopian failure | Pedro Hernández

Paseo de la Reforma en 1963, Dibujo de Mario Pani
Paseo de la Reforma en 1963, Mario Pani’s drawing

The architecture for yes same is unable to put solution to the males of the company. For much that has existed during great part of the 20th century an effort from the theory for claiming the autonomy of the discipline, today we know that the architecture limits itself, actually, in a complex process that is affected by the economic thing, the social thing or the legal thing. To claim that only the architecture will save us is to remain with a limited vision of all that. Nevertheless, it is in her better where there continue being reflected the changes, the successes and the failures behind certain policies, in the measure in which it is his material and spatial concretion.

Of there his symbolic force: of there that the fall and the destruction of a building or the violence that it imposes, they serve, almost always, like perfect metaphor of us themselves.

On October 2, 1968 (6:10 pm)

“I was happy with you […]
Until I woke up of my madness.
And could understand that you me were lying”.

In 1964 the Adolfo Lopez Mateos President urban Set of Nonoalco Tlatelolco it seems radiant. LIFE portrays it proudly between his pages as image of the Mexican Miracle. The publishers of the magazine of architecture L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui,, on having seen the first air photos of the project newly finished, confused the new set with a model: precise lines for a new company. Tlatelolco is the most new of the projects of housing stimulated by the State, revealing an extraordinary clarity Le Corbusier style.

1964 el Conjunto Urbano Presidente Adolfo López Mateos de Nonoalco Tlatelolco luce radiante (1960-64)
Adolfo Lopez Mateos President urban Set of Nonoalco Tlatelolco seems radiant (1960-64)

Pani, his architect, did that one that the Swiss teacher only could imagine in the drawings of the Plan Voisin. It is urgent so to celebrate this new image, the president to the head, accompanied of his secretaries and the architect, exposes the new urban and social order to blow of I make concrete; pristine architecture raised with imposition on the former horse-shoe of huts, this urban chaos which history, since in Luis Buñuel’s movie, only belongs to the forgotten ones.

The reality would hit there only four years later; the modern dream turns into nightmare into the Three Cultures Square, a place where the history seems to be constant written in blood. There it was where it fell Cuauhtémoc, the last tlatoaniof Mexico-Tenochtitlan. And there it was where it went off immodestly against a set of persons who only were claiming social changes. 1968 was a cardinal year in which to the front there were the desires of the French born young persons after the Second World war that they were asking to imagine another possible world.

A revolutionary fever of a flourishing middle class that spread all over the planet of shining form: in The United States the first movements arise against the war of Vietnam; in Mexico, with the proximity of the Olympic Games that had to show to the world a modern State, the own fights vindicated themselves. But the illusions of transformation in this country remained spread in pieces in the heart of Tlatelolco’s project. The architectural design had been his trap: the spatial configuration of the square was the perfect scene to shoot on an unarmed population, catching her between the buildings as if a mousetrap was treating itself.

Ruinas de Tlatelolco. Plaza de las tres Culturas
Tlatelolco’s ruins. Three Cultures Square | Source:

Though it was evident that the project realized by Mario Pani was used from the beginning by the power, few ones imagined, nevertheless, that was coming to such a form of service: the forceful repression of all those persons out of the ideal ones of the leaders.

On September 19, 1985 (7:17 am)

“Everything was ruined inside me […]
It looks at my body, how it breaks.”

Marked in blood, the place sank in it spoils once again. Since affected by an evil I wish, the costs of his maintenance were never assumed completely by the State, which was the owner. In the decade of the eighties already one had pleaded for the autoadministration on the part of the neighbors. Some years before, the big real-estate projects of social character were far much from the ideas after Tlatelolco.

Tlatelolco inaugurado, 1965 | © Rodrigo Moya |
Tlatelolco inaugurated, 1965 | © Rodrigo Moya | Source:

If in Pani’s vision always there defended itself the densification of the urban center, with public integrated services, the new developments were establishing themselves in peripheries increasingly distant, turning into big ghettos where it was excluded from any type of benefit to the whole mass of population. But the definitive blow was for coming. In 1985 an earthquake of 8.2 in the Richter scale concerned to almost the whole Mexico City. In Tlatelolco, only one of 102 buildings collapsed as consequence of the quake: the New building León lost two third parts forthwith and hundreds of persons died.

Other blocks met affected and were knocked down later. The neighbors accused the fact of “collective homicide” because, in spite of that there were known the bad technical conditions of the building and especially of his foundation, the solutions were scanty and were late. Since then, Tlatelolco, as a giant of feet of mud, was turned forever into the image of the modern failure.

Today (now).

“Everything was ruined inside me […]
It looks at my dreams, how they burn.”

The aspect of the urban set today is very different. Some buildings already are not. Others lost his top floors. Almost they all were reinforced in his structure. The image of the pure prism that had in his origin is now nearest to an architecture brutalista of concretly; visible scars that do of the place a species of magnet that attracts visitors with his ghostly histories, looking deshebrar for the threads of the happened.

One of so many people of these opportune walkers is the Spanish artist Fernando Sanchez Castillo, who exposes three pieces in the Room of Public Art Siqueiros concerning the events of 68: a carpet that reproduces a plane with the location of snipers placed in several buildings and the direction of his shots on October 2; a choreographic video that shows an action in the Plaza of Three Cultures with red and green flares, as which they indicated the beginning of the military action; and an enormous statue – a minor centimeter that the David de Michael Angel – of one of the students stopped during in 68, with a view to the wall and with the trousers lowered up to the ankles as a sign of humiliation.

Life, 1965
Life, 1965

Interested party in “the intrahistorias of the history”, Sanchez Castillo monumentaliza the tragic event to return dignity to the losers: the only way of being reconciled by the unfulfilled promises buried and squashed under the power and the metaphors of the architecture.

Pedro Hernández · architect
Ciudad de México. july 2016

Soy arquitecto por la Universidad de Alicante, pero mi interés sobre esta disciplina se encuentra alejado de su papel tradicional de diseño de espacios. Más bien, me interesa entender cómo las representaciones de la arquitectura, el paisaje, el diseño o el territorio construyen y materializan determinados discursos ideológicos, imponiendo posturas, subjetividades y formas de acción sobre los cuerpos que la habitan.

En mi trabajo edito estos discursos –sus imágenes, sus historias o sus restos materiales– y reelaboro comentarios críticos que ponen en evidencia sus controversias y contradicciones, formalizándolos en diversos formatos como textos, fotografías, vídeos, objetos o instalaciones, muchas veces entrecruzados entre sí.

He publicado artículos y ensayos en diversos medios de Estados Unidos, Italia, Croacia, España, Chile y México. Desde enero de 2013-2018 residí en la Ciudad de México donde trabajaba como coordinador de contenidos en Arquine. Actualmente resido en Madrid.

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