Aerial view of architect Mario Pani’s extensive apartment complex Nonoalco-Tlatelolco probably taken around the time it was completed in 1964. My Cocoon Tlatelolco was in the central plaza by the Aztec ruins. Created as a modern city within Mexico City, the Nonoalco-Tlatelolco complex was a state fantasy of the urban future where all classes lived in the 102 apartment buildings. There were schools, businesses, gardens, hospitals, reflecting pools and artist murals, all brand new and built from the ground up. The metropolis housed 80,000 people before the 1985 earthquake.
Below is video footage from the opening ceremonies at Nonoalco-Tlatelolco, photographs of the construction of the complex and removal of the railroad yards, plus an interview with architect, Mario Pani.
I’m sorry that this video is no longer available. It has great archival footage not only of the ribbon cutting luncheon but also Mexico City surrounded by farmlands.
Film by EdificiosdeMexico.
Nonoalco-Tlatelolco was built on a high risk earthquake site where shock waves become amplified. In 1985 Mexico City was hit with an earthquake that lasted 90 seconds and registered a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale. The monumental architecture of Nonoalco-Tlatelolco fell. The Nuevo Leon building collapsed instantly. Others were badly damaged and had to be demolished. Hundreds of people were killed in the complex. Subsequent earthquakes followed and more buildings in Nonoalco-Tlatelolco were demolished. The remaining buildings continue to deteriorate. The modernist exterior detailing was removed and covered with cement. There are 90 apartment buildings left and 55,000 people who live in the complex.
Video with footage of the collapse of towers in the Nonoalco-Tlatelolco complex during the 1985 earthquake.
film by Sergio Garcia, UNAM
Of the buildings that remain today, they still retain their elegant design of rectangles within rectangles, these are especially visible with the Chihuahua building. They no longer have the decorative facades that made them crisp and appealing objects of the future, and the scale of the complex is smaller because there are less buildings. The powerful grid and repetition of form was lost when buildings fell and were demolished. The site is no longer a monumental example of power, modern Mexico’s answer to Teotihuacan. That place is now in the southwest part of Mexico City in Santa Fe with the huge upscale shopping mall, El Pantalón building and Nobu Restaurant. Instead, Tlatelolco is very beautiful. There are many trees and song birds. The view of the Plaza de las Tres Culturas and Mexico City from the Chihuahua building is extremely moving as is the plaza itself. It is the terror and violence of the past the fall of the Aztecs, the ‘68 massacre of students, the 1985 earthquake that makes it so moving. But it’s also moving because it is nothing more than it is. It isn’t representing anyone’s grand scheme anymore it is merely living.
Click Cocoon Tlatelolco to see images and read about my Cocoon build at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas.