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Mexico City Goes Contemporary

1 Left to right Torre Mayor Torre Reforma Torre BBVA
Left to right Torre Mayor, Torre Reforma, Torre BBVA. Photo Paul Clemence.

By Paul Clemence

Mexico City’s ancient history and its rich cultural heritage, from the Aztec empire to the Spanish occupation, have made the sprawling capital a major destination for history and anthropology-inclined travelers. Not surprisingly, the city counts 3 Unesco World Heritage Sites.

But in recent years, as the city became safer to visit, attracting a more current and cosmopolitan crowd, CDMX, the acronym the city is known as, became a major stop in the contemporary art, design, architecture, and epicurean circuit. If you are planning a trip to Mexico’s capital, here are some hot spots not to be missed if looking for the latest cultural highlights:


2 Top of Torre Reforma
Top of Torre Reforma. Photo Paul Clemence.


ARCHITECTURE: Anchoring the historic, grand Avenida de la Reforma just before it bends West, three tall structures show that despite being mostly a horizontally spread city, CDMX can also go vertical, with megalopolis aplomb while keeping its Mexican character. The tallest of them, the triangular-shaped Torre Reforma, was designed by LBR&A Architectos. Its concrete facades feature carefully placed windows, inspired by the interplay of solid and openings in Pre-Hispanic and colonial Mexican architecture.  Just down the avenue is Torre Mayor, a glass tower developed by a Canadian developer. If its style feels more “international”, the structure definitely takes into consideration Mexico City’s shaky soil, featuring one of the most efficient and sophisticated earthquake detection systems and powerful anti-shock absorbers in the world. Crossing the street, is the BBVA Tower, a design collaboration by two important architecture offices, that one of Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta and of British architect Richard Rogers, two legendary designers. The design combines both architects’ signature elements, bringing together two distinct approaches: Rogers’s high-tech exposed structure and Legoretta’s exquisite use of color and sense of space. Together, the three towers make for an impressive statement on contemporary high rise Mexican architecture.

3 Lovers sculpture by artist Urs Fischer, in front of Museo Jumex
Lovers sculpture by artist Urs Fischer, in front of Museo Jumex. Photo Paul Clemence.


MUSEO JUMEX and MUSEO SOUMAYA:  These are amazing pieces of architecture housing important, private collections. The Museo Jumex, designed by celebrity British architect David Chipperfield, focuses on contemporary art in its collection and rotating exhibits.


4 Interior Museo Soumaya
Interior Museo Soumaya. Photo Paul Clemence.


At Museo Soumaya, a sculptural tour de force conceived by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, the collection covers a broader spectrum, from Mexican pre-Hispanic coins and religious relics to art by Mexican and European masters like Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso. The museum’s interior spiral-like layout is often compared to Frank Lloyds Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

6 The work of Kenyan artist Thandiwe Muriu at Zona Maco copy
The work of Kenyan artist Thandiwe Muriu at Zona Maco. Photo Paul Clemence.


ZONA MACO + DESIGN WEEK MEXICO: If there is one indicator of coolness and relevance in the selective (albeit ever-growing) niche world of contemporary art and design that would be the roster of its yearly cultural fairs.


5 Zona Maco art fair
Zona Maco art fair. Photo Paul Clemence.

And in that arena, Mexico City is without a doubt keeping up quite well with other top world-class capitals, both the Zona Maco art fair and the Design Week Mexico having become fixtures on the international glitterati calendars, attracting blue chip renown artists , trending designers and the die-hard collectors who love them.

7 Vision & Tradition design exhibit at Antropology Museum part of Design Week Mexico
Vision & Tradition design exhibit at Antropology Museum part of Design Week Mexico. Photo Paul Clemence.


9 Nina Coimbra vases
Designer Nina Coimbra vases at Territorio design gallery. Photo Paul Clemence.


8 Território design gallery, at G56 creative hub
Território design gallery, at G56 creative hub. Photo Paul Clemence.

TERRITORIO/ Design Gallery: The latest concept by the dynamic triad behind Design Week Mexico (architects Andrea Cesarman, Emilio Cabrero and Marco Coello), the Territorio design gallery is a natural development for the trio, who beyond their design advocacy and initiatives, also run a full-fledged architecture firm ( C Cubica).

The gallery is part of  the G56 Hub Creativo, a Brutalist light building that has been transformed into a cool, arts and design central in a street that is quickly becoming an important cultural reference in the city. The gallery features designers that go beyond function to express a point of view, a new idea. “We are convinced that design has the power to transform a problem into an innovative solution with the ability to impact our lives and the world positively”, says co-counder Emilio Cabrero.

11 Window installation at Algo by Turkish duo ...
Window installation at Algo by Turkish duo. Photo Paul Clemence..

LAGO ALGO: Located at the western shore of the Lake Mayor at Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Parc) , Lago Algo is a mix of restaurant and art gallery. Set in a building originally designed by architects Leónides Guadarrama and Alfonso Ramírez Ponce in 1964, the structure has been given an update by Mexican architecture office Naso.


10 Art installation at Algo
Art installation at Algo. Photo Paul Clemence.

Here visitors can dine lakeside at “Lago”, the eatery section, conceived by chef Micaela Miguel, or explore the modern and contemporary art offerings at the sprawling galleries upstairs (“Algo”), which is free and open to non-diners as well. Most certainly a one stop destination that is both a palate and visual feast.


13 Terrace at SAMOS restaurant at Ritz Carlton with biew to Chapultepec Park below
13 Terrace at SAMOS restaurant at Ritz Carlton with view to Chapultepec Park below. Photo Paul Clemence.


SAMOS @ Ritz Carlton: Originally from Guadalajara, executive chef Johnathan Felix takes inspiration from both his international travels and Mexican flavors and scents, blending Eastern Mediterranean cuisine with l seasonal ingredients sourced around Mexico City.


12 Ceviche Amarillo, at SAMOS restaurant, photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Mexico City copy
Ceviche Amarillo, at SAMOS restaurant, Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton Mexico City.


The result is a unique selection of multicultural dishes that are colorful and rich in layered tastes (exhibit A: the Ceviche Amarillo / Yellow ceviche, with shrimp, yellow pepper, sweet potato, jicama red onion, corn and cilantro).  High up at 38th floor of the Ritz Carlton tower, as an added bonus, SAMOS’s terraces offers breathtaking views of the city below.


Paul Clemence
Paul Clemence

Paul Clemence is an award-winning photographer and writer exploring the cross-section of design, art and architecture. A published author, his volume Mies van der Rohe’s FARNSWORTH HOUSE remains to this day the most complete photo documentation of that iconic modern residential design, and a selection of these photos is part of the Mies van der Rohe Archives housed by MoMa, New York. He is widely published in arts, architecture and lifestyle magazines like Metropolis, ArchDaily, Architizer, Modern, Casa Vogue Brasil and others. Archi-Photo, aka Architecture Photography, his Facebook photo blog quickly became a photography and architecture community, with over 970,000 followers worldwide. An architect by training, Clemence is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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