The Edificio Guardiola might be but another relatively innocuous banking building if not for its designer. Carlos Obregón Santacilia (1896-1961) was the great-grandson of President Benito Juárez. He was also a grand nephew of Alvaro Obregón. This was the architect’s final great work, built in 1947. But that’s a very interesting period in Mexican architecture. Obregón had really come into his own in the early 1930s. He’d done so restoring the cupola of what was to be a giant legislative palace. In creating the Monument to the Revolution, he built an icon of the city, and a mystery as to the mix of styles and influences. It’s a mystery that still resonates today.
Here we have another mix, albeit less intense. The functionalism that we admire in so many other projects of the mid-century is here ornamented in obvious Arte Deco details. The Edificio Guardiola is the Annex to the Bank of Mexico Building directly to the north. Built from 1903 to 1905 in an eclectic style that leans heavily towards Italian Renaissance style, the Bank of Mexico building is a clear complement to the Palacio Postal, again, to its north. Built for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, once it was purchased by Mexico’s Central Bank, Obregón was tasked with a major remodeling that lasted from 1925 to 1928.
With nine floors, three of them underground, it’s said to hold the vaults of the Bank of Mexico. But here, perhaps most importantly, we see Obregón’s Arte Deco somewhat more reserved than what he’d done in the lavish hall within the original building. It’s in conversation now simultaneously with the Palacio de Bellas Artes (1934), the Torre Latinoamerica (1956) as well as with the Bank. For most Mexico City residents, it’s simply a subdued welcome to the frenzy of activity always happening on the Calle Francisco I. Madero.
Sources cited on this page:
Vida de Peatón/jorgalbrto: Edificio Guardiola