Los Manantieles de Xochimilco is today a ruin. It’s arguably the most complete and perfect design by the architect Felix Candela and one which is only barely preserved. In Xochimilco, just beyond the Zacapa Boat Launch (visible in the foreground of the photo), the building came to be in 1958.
Designed to house a restaurant that had opened 20 years earlier, it’s remarkable for multiple reasons. Meaning simply “The Springs of Xochimilco,” an original structure burned to the ground in 1957. The restaurant owners then requested a new building that wouldn’t burn. They intended to hold a contest to select a design. Candela’s work though, even on paper, appeared so beautiful that the restaurant owners were simply taken with it.
Candela’s design, based on a lotus flower floating on water, lacks nothing in his characteristic rigourous geometry. The remarkable design took a mere four months to build, but even today it seems among the otherworldly of designs from an architect well-known for them. With a capacity for about 1000 diners, Candela’s design incorporates four hyperbolic paraboloids cast in concrete. The floor spans nearly 42 meters in diameter and the maximum height reaches some 5.90 meters on the inside.
The building suffered some damage in the 2017 earthquake. Then a private citizens group put the forward a plan for restoration. It was to be includes to include the building within the area of the former Casa de Bombas Porfiriana, and the Las Flores restaurant. A 2020 plan to begin restoring the building fell to the pandemia of 2020-2021. Architectural and cultural enthusiasts still wait for the reannouncement of the restoration work.
Los Manatieles de Xochimilco is still a near-mystical sight to those passing by on the canals. It’s a historic part of the Pueblo Santa María Nativitas, and just a stone’s throw from the Boat Launch and the Madreselva Flower Market.