Mario Pani Street

I guess that the benefit of being an architect is that most of your work outlives you, and if you end up being such an important part of the field in your particular end of the woods, you might get better recognition. As Mario Pani did, who was a Mexican architect; a juggernaut that shaped the capital, and the country, throughout his career.

But what he might be best known for wasn’t just a building... it was a housing complex called Tlatelolco. It was probably one of the most audacious experiments in urban planning and design that Mexico had carried out in its history. For Pani -who also designed ciudad satelite- it was a dream of functionality come true.


With eleven thousand residences across one square kilometer, Tlatelolco reached a population density of 27,000 people/km^2.... The complex involved public transportation, hospitals, education, commercial and leisure facilities... Despite the overwhelming population density (even today, Mexico City’s densest boroughs average around 11,000/km^2) because of verticalization, it had space to host open areas... as to avoid feeling trapped.

An island of high-rise apartments is surrounded by mid century urban sprawl

But that’s not why we remember Tlatelolco so vividly... Four years after it was inaugurated, two weeks prior to the opening of the 1968 olympics, a group of student protestors met at the Three Cultures Square to plan a march. Even though the leaders of the movement canceled the march in fears of violence, police trapped them inside the complex, and elite snipers started shooting at them from the roofs.


To this day, it is unclear how many protestors, and even police officers, were murdered... Presumably by snipers that answered directly to President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

Diaz Ordaz and Richard Nixon in San Diego

President Diaz Ordaz was never persecuted for the massacre. The 1968 massacre was a pivotal moment in Mexican history, and it changed the relationship Mexicans have with their government for worse. Today it will be the first time in history that the remembrance march is not protected by the same police squadron -the granaderos- that trapped the victims 51 years ago.


The decay of Tlatelolco continued throughout the decades, hitting an inflection point when the Nuevo Leon building fell in the 1985 earthquake. It was in the process of being reinforced and modernized, the construction equipment overladen the tower’s structure; which is why it fell.  

The 1985 earthquake created a bubble around Mexico City, people did not want to live in highrises, and the government wasn’t ready to approve any new ones. So rather than going up, the city began to sprawl, stretching it’s infrastructure thin as it expanded mostly north.

Sorry for the resolution, I couldn’t find the original one

Even today, getting a high-rise building approved is a tedious, and difficult process, which is why we don’t really have any skyscrapers. 

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