The Pasaje Polanco is a remarkable mixed-use residential and commercial development on Polanco’s Avenida Masaryk. It’s reminiscent of a few even earlier urban shopping areas that often acted as a single covered passageway between streets. Those in Paris led Walter Benjamin to his ruminations in the Arcades Project. In Mexico City, a few still retain the name “Pasaje,” especially in the City Center. Mostly as the 20th century progressed, the pasajes were lost or replaced by free-standing shopping centers.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing here is the level of understatement. That’s considering the California-style that can seem rather brash on other Polanco properties. The location here, on a top commercial avenue, makes it all the more remarkable.
The complex opened in 1938. It was drawn up by the architect and engineer Francisco Serrano who’d go on to earn recognition for his especially Post-Art-Deco residential towers in Condesa. He’s probably most famous for the Engineering Faculty Building on the UNAM CU Campus.
But here, even flirting with West Hollywood as he clearly was, Serrano achieved a noteworthy unity. The complex has remained popular – and occupied – ever since it opened. For a commercial and residential property, it somehow still has individual lease-holders, i.e.; independent restaurants. Much of the street-level on three sides is still dedicated to one-owner eateries. And they’re still open beneath the Pasaje Polanco’s four residential apartment buildings.
The trademark sundial, shown above, is original too. It was designed by Serrano himself. The passage is no longer open all the way from north to south. But for those peeking in, it’s still a charming and pleasant place to visit. The buildings influence on similar developments across the city remains incalculable. And it’s a design that a lot of people hope will make a comeback.