SAHARA Highlights: Mexico City

by Jackie Stafford and Mark Hinchman, SAHARA co-Editors | May 23, 2023

Mexico City, the subject of the upcoming SAH fundraising tour, is well represented in SAHARA, with 2,486 entries representing all eras, including the ancient Aztec and Teotihuacan civilizations, the Spanish colonial era, and the vibrant period of 20th-century modernism. We hope that the collection provides you with a strong image base for your teaching and research in these areas. If you participate in the SAH tour or are a scholar of this area, we also hope you will contribute your own photography. Please note that even when buildings and sites are already in the SAHARA collection, it is worthwhile to document their current status. Several of the photographs below date to the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and it would be valuable to know how the structures are faring in the 21st century.

The SAH tour, Mexico City: Past & Present, is planned for August 5–7, and will be led by SAH member, professor, and author Kathryn O'Rourke. Several of the sites below will be included on the tour.

Whether you travel far and wide, or stay closer to home, please consider making your own contributions to SAHARA.   

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concrete and glass building with domes
Felix Candela, Bacardi Bottling Plant, Mexico City, 1961. Photograph by Amanda Delorey, 2010. Candela was a Spanish-born architect known for his thin-shell concrete structures.

modern glass skyscraper
Augusto Alvarez, Torre Latinoamerica, Mexico City, 1956. Photograph by Amber N. Wiley, 2014. This building demonstrated to the world that Mexican architects and contractors were participating in the world of highrise construction.

blue, white, and red modernist building
Juan O’Gorman, Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo Studio and House, Mexico City, 1932. Photograph by Amanda Delorey, 2010. This colorful double house featured prominently in Julie Taymor’s 2002 movie, Frida.

round church building with sloped roof
Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Nueva Basilica de Nuestra Señora Santa María de Guadalupe, Mexico City, 1976. Photography by John S. Stec, 1978. The new basilica was designed to replace the crumbling old basilica and to house the ever-increasing number of pilgrims.

fountain in front of arcaded building
Rodrigo de Pontocillos and Juan Rodriguez. Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, 1530. Photograph by Amber Wiley, 2014. Wiley, the first recipient of SAH's H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship, has contributed 528 photographs that cover all time periods of Mexican history.

palace with gold domes
Adamo Boari and Federico Mariscal, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 1904–1934. Photograph by Dell Upton, 1987. The building in Mexico’s central square, the Zócalo, has both Art Nouveau and Art Deco features.

modernist building with Aztec-style murals
Juan O’Gorman, Gustavo Saavedra, and Juan Martínez de Velasco. Central Library, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, 1954. Photograph by Gabrielle Esperdy, 2009. One of the major monuments of Mexican modernism, the library features a mosaic façade with depictions of Mexican technical and cultural achievements done in the style of the Aztecs.

stone head of serpent
Unknown, Temple of Quetzalcoatl, Teotihuacan, circa 250–300 CE. Photo by Allan T. Kohl, 1998. Teotihuacan is the archaeological park that lies to the northeast of Mexico City. This detail shows a sculpted version in stone of a mask of the plumed serpent.

exterior of brick building with stairs and fountains
Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Museo Nacional de Anthropologia, Mexico City, 1964. Photograph by John S. Stec, 1978.

large pool with diving board and tiered seating
Félix Nuncio, Ignacio, Ignacio López Bancalari, and Enrique Molinar, UNAM swimming pool, Mexico City, 1952. Photography by William Kessler, 1967. Kessler was a Michigan modernist who contributed 325 photos that he took in Mexico.

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610