Designer Mackenzie Madsen reveals the places and features that make Mexico City a must-see for any design enthusiast.
In a seemingly endless, sprawling city with 21.1 million residents, over 150 museums, and 15,000 restaurants, no matter where you go, there’s always something to see, hear, taste, or feel. It’s difficult to even skim the surface of all the richness this Mexico City (CDMX) has to offer. The word is out on the city’s greatness, as many international artists and young professionals are moving to this cosmopolitan city, only adding to its vibrancy.
My recent trip to this bustling city inspired my designs and further confirmed my personal design philosophy of how simple design can be impactful. It also reinforced my love of greenery indoors and out. In CDMX, plants are not a trend, like they currently are in the USA—they are consistently integrated into the design. Greenery appears on the exterior of the building, and it also serves as the architectural and design focal points on the interiors.
There is a mix of old and new architecture and design, which lends the city a layered richness. Mexico City was named World Design Capital 2018 by the World Design Organization, which is yearlong biannual designation to showcase and celebrate the city’s design achievements. And while there are many spectacular sites—from the country’s largest museum, The National Museum of Anthropology to the construction of a Zaha Hadid residential high-rise, set to become the city’s tallest apartment building—I’ve rounded up my top five places every design enthusiast should visit.
This mega library, situated in downtown Mexico City, is a sight to see. Designed by Mexican architects Alberto Kalach and Juan Palomar, the simplicity of raw materials and natural light make for a stunning space. The floating steel bookcases hanging from the ceiling, glass catwalks, and modern design are absolutely transfixing.
Luis Barragán House & Studio
It’s always exciting to see an architect’s personal home, especially one with as much historical significance as Luis Barragán’s. Luis is a famous Mexican architect and a recipient of the Pritzker Prize, which is considered the highest award in architecture. By visiting Casa Barragán, you will see the space in tact as Luis had lived in it until his time of passing. This architectural jewel encompasses what he is best known for: light, shadow, color, planes, and form.
Cuadra San Cristóbal
Built by Luis Barragán in 1968, this famous pink-hued, modernist structure, located on the outskirts of Mexico City, is part of the Los Cubles project. Here, you will see the modern simplicity of light, color, and planes producing a strong architectural impact. I recommend getting a local architectural scholar to take you to both of Luis Barragán’s location. You will absolutely get the most out of your experience.
Museo Frida Kahlo
Go here to soak in the richness of the colors, architecture, and environment of one of Mexico’s most iconic artists. Through her artwork, Kahlo explored ideas of race, gender, class, and identity of Mexican culture. Touring the artist’s home, one can feel the energy of a truly creative and inspired individual. Although I personally loved the vibrancy of colors, and objects in the space, what is most inspiring is Kahlo’s approach to life. The strength of her physical and metaphorical fight to live life on her own accord is something to be inspired by. This can translate when creating one’s own environment.
I recommend this restaurant because not only is the environment extremely rich and provides you with a truly multi-sensory experience. It feels like a day spa for dining. Pujol is rated one of the top 20 best restaurants in the world. Internationally famous Chef Enrique Olvera creates a tasting menu of elevated street food. We had corn on the cob, tacos, their famous mole, which was over 1,400 days old. Although it’s contemporary fine dining, the environment is stunning and comfortable with its thick wood table tops, white walls, rich grey, black, and brown color palette. After our meal we were moved to the garden where we were served champagne and dessert. ¡Salud!
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