This project was designed for a pivotal site on the Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City’s major boulevards, where a gilded statue of the winged goddess of victory (“El Ángel”) stands atop a 118-foot-high column in celebration of Mexico’s independence. The monument is one of the best-known symbols of Mexico’s capital city. The 29-story L-shaped building is contoured around the civic rotary. The masonry exterior is sliced open, geode-like, to reveal a highly polished inner surface: between the two solid end walls is a faceted glass section designed to mirror the Angel – not as a whole, but with kaleidoscopic reflections that change with the viewer’s vantage point around the circle. Always engaging, never the same. Movement was a constant in Pei’s approach to design, most often in paths of experience on foot. Here, notably as in NCAR, Gateway, and the Bank of China Tower, it is a bigger issue of vehicular movement and architecture as monumental sculpture seen at high speed from ever-changing perspectives.
Mexico City’s frequent earthquakes and notoriously soft soil presented difficult, and expensive, engineering challenges. A greater problem came unexpectedly from the client, one of the richest men in Mexico, who owned the world’s largest refined silver company and had stakes in multiple other industries. The goal was to consolidate the different entities in the new building, but when the conglomerate came under government scrutiny, the client thought it ill-advised to showcase his business holdings on such a prominent site. The project disappeared. (As frequently happened, Pei’s career intersected with his father’s international banking network. In this case, Tsuyee Pei had negotiated with the client’s father fifty years earlier when purchasing silver to stabilize China’s fluctuating currency standard.)
Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; W. Stephen Wood, Design Architect
I.M. Pei & Partners