THE BACKDROP for our cover fashion feature—Mexico City, one of the world’s largest metropolises and home to both 16th-century churches and modernist museums—encompasses a sometimes chaotic architectural landscape. Behind the multifarious facades, however, the capital’s design history tells a fascinating story, each building contributing to its richly layered past, present and future.
Take Castillo de Chapultepec. The castle, which now houses the Museum of National History, was built in the 18th century for a Spanish viceroy and is a grand example of Europe’s neoclassical influence on Mexico at the time. Closer to the present, a uniquely modern vernacular has taken root as the structures of bygone eras are adapted to modern purposes.
One of the best examples of this synthesis is Grupo Habita’s Downtown Mexico hotel. Designed by architects Abraham Cherem and Javier Serrano, it combines vaulted ceilings and handmade tiles from the original 17th-century colonial palace with contemporary flourishes, such as blond-wood furniture and mid-20th-century lamps. “We wanted to respect the architecture and space of the building, see its real essence,” Cherem says.
Meanwhile, newer buildings, such as Luis Barragán’s Casa Gilardi and Casa Luis Barragán, David Chipperfield ’s Museo Jumex and Alberto Kalach’s Kurimanzutto gallery, often emphasize minimalism and light. “There are so many styles in Mexico City,” Cherem says. “The contrast between the contemporary texture and how we respect the old—that’s difficult to find elsewhere.”