Between art and architecture – Torres de Satélite, 1958

A famous collaboration between architect Luis Barragán and artist Mathias Goeritz that gave birth to an iconic project in Mexico City.

Torres de Satélite - Photo by Adlai Puido

In the course of the decades from 30 to 50, Mexico City tripled its population after a post-revolutionary stage that marked a powerful rural migration to the city. This accelerated phase of growth was the reason for an urban development that approached modernism and European theories of urbanization as part of its growth philosophy. Mario Pani (architect and urban planner, Mexico City, 1911–1993) was the main promoter of this thought that gave life to a modern Mexico in which architecture and the city witnessed works as the first modern multifamily in Latin America (CUPA, 1947), the University City (Ciudad Universitaria1952) and the Satellite City (Ciudad Satélite). The latter functioned as a development model to respond to the accelerated growth of the city and generate a city outside of it that would give in its conception not only a new model of living but also encourage the creation of urban landmarks as an identity of areas in the metropolis.

In this need to locate and guide, Pani in his role as urban planner, asked Luis Barragán (Mexico, 1902–1988) to do the iconic project of access to the city Satellite and Barragán, as well, invites Mathias Goeritz (Poland 1915 - 1990) plastic artist, to make such an emblematic commission together. From this relationship between architecture and art result the five triangular prisms that today inhabit a square that is limited on its sides by the main avenue that gives access to development and embraces the open space containing the volumes of primary colors. The road plays an important role, the speed of traffic made the towers have a design in response to it, and therefore the towers form isosceles triangles to the south that, with the speed of the observer from his car, become stelae that disappear as soon as one passes from the side. Then from south to north are fine elevations that look like monuments and from north to south present their flat side to the circulation to become buildings that at some point deceive the mind thinking they are habitable, thus making the cardinal points decide whether they are art or architecture.

The road plays an important role, the speed at which it transited motivated the towers and have a design in response to it.

They rise by varying their heights, reach to measure 53 meters on their soil, they become visible at a distance and thus fulfill their goal of being milestone. Their shape forces them to be hollow but then the volume of contained air makes them look robust, strong. Their rough texture gives them character, they were built with wooden forms that added that touch to the reinforced concrete in each step in elevation that advanced and betrayed the imperfections that this technique accepts between a casting and another of almost one meter each; its architects bet a long way to reach their peaks of reliable and almost artisanal process.

His appearance is sensory, Goeritz himself described them as painting, emotional architecture, as a plastic prayer; the local inhabitants have made them their own, they are its emblem and also pride, the passers by car understand them as a point of reference on a city scale and the visitors on foot who perceive their real scale pass them by touching their hands along their sides, they look up and feel that they are buildings, even people have been seen hugging them, and it is just where perhaps, the emotion that Goeritz refers to art and Barragan as architecture is present.

Torres de Satélite
Luis Barrgán
Mathias Goeritz
Mexico DF

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