‘The building uses its bulk to
create a series of public spaces
in which the boundary between
art and architecture blurs’
and endlessly varying. For as much as the museum’s
interior functions and is distinct, its exterior makes it
a landmark in the city. Located in Chapultepec Park
(one of the largest inner-city parks in the world), the
building’s castle-like ramparts and masses resemble a
medieval city, but for its most distinctive feature: the
entire facade is vibrantly covered in numerous modern
styles of blue and white tiles with yellow accents. This
total break from Legoretta’s typical materials marks
the building out and invites discovery.
Simultaneously it references another building from
Mexico’s history, The House of Tiles (La Casa de los
Azulejos). This mansion in the historic centre was tiled
in 1737 by its wealthy owner, the Don Luis, Count of
Orizaba, the tiles being a representation of wealth. The
tiles are in the Puebla style, from a city around two
hours’ drive from Mexico City. When Don Luis went to
Puebla to select and quote the tiles, he was horrified at
the price, so he sent sample tiles to China to be copied,
outsourcing 300 years before it became a political topic.
This reference at El Papalote is an inspired connection
with the history of the nation.
This referencing both to history and discovery
nevertheless incorporates much of Mexico’s culture
of the period. El Papalote was built in 1993, a time
when public security was in question. The massivity
of Mexican architecture owes much to security issues
over the past 500 years, and even before occupation.
The massive, largely windowless forms communicate
a safe retreat from the world, a space where children
could be let free to explore without the concerns
of street life of the time. All these elements together
define the identity of El Papalote.
Given the clarity of branding of his other projects,
Right: MARCO, ‘whose richly coloured walls
provide an excellent backdrop for art’