The Palacio de Minería, The Palace of Mining, was designed and built between 1797 and 1813 by the Valencian sculptor and architect, Manuel Tolsá.
Inside, a museum is dedicated just to him. The building was intended to house the Spanish Royal School of Mines and Mining. The magnificent palace later housed other institutions, among them, the National University, the School of Engineering, the College of Mines, and eventually, the Physics Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
It is today, a museum belonging to the UNAM Faculty of Engineering. Opposite the Plaza, also named for Manuel Tolsá, and the most recent home to his own equestrian statue Carlos IV of Spain, the Palacio de Minería is a spectacular place to visit and a rare example of Mexican deference to the rare colonial-era genius.
The Palacio de Minería dates back to 1793 when Tolsá was commissioned for the project. Tolsá also worked on the final stage of construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral, along with a slate of the era’s most prominent projects. The importance of mining as the main economic activity of New Spain becomes ever more obvious as one approaches.
In fact, the Enlightenment ideals of reason and order put to the attainment of knowledge are perhaps nowhere more artfully realized.
Later in the 1860s, the palace was considered for use as the imperial palace of Emperor Maximiliano. He chose the Castle of Chapultepec as his residence. Soon thereafter, the facility was again put to use housing the Special School Engineering and it remained as such for almost a hundred years. In 1954, the Faculty of Engineering moved to a different building in the University City.
Within the building one can still fine a stunning Courtyard, Lecture Hall, a chapel to the Virgin of Guadalupe and the lavish stairways. Part of the UNAM heritage sites, it is still the site of conferences, specialized courses, and events like the International Book Fair. It also houses the Museo Manuel Tolsá, along with the seats of several city and national organizations, among the m the Society of Alumni of the Faculty of Engineering.