The history of the current called Art Déco begins in Paris in 1925, when it was shown for the first time at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Taking inspiration from the modernism of the time, Art Deco sought to embody a novel and anti-traditional elegance that functioned as a symbol of the opulence that characterized the post-war era. In architecture, buildings of this style are characterized by simple volumes with some ornamental elements in stylized geometric shapes that, although rarely mass-produced, reflected an admiration for the industrial age and the design qualities inherent in machines (symmetry , repetition and simplicity).
Although Art Deco originated in Europe, it did not take long to reach other corners of the world. Today, cities like Mumbai, Shanghai and Melbourne are recognized for the strong presence of style among their 20th century buildings, and Mexico City is not far behind. When the Mexican Revolution ended around 1920, the country's capital was in the process of forming a new aesthetic and cultural identity. Architecture has always prevailed among the ways in which a society creates a sense of belonging to its territory and a distinctive image for those who visit it, and although an architectural style may come from outside, it always takes on a new form when inserted in another place.
In her book "Art Déco in Mexico City", Dr. Carolina Magaña explains that "Déco architecture is considered the pinnacle of Mexican nationalist architectural design, since it was the only one among the four contemporary currents neocolonial, Californian colonial, modern movement and neo indigenismo in which various types of buildings were built, with formal elements such as single-family houses, multi-family buildings, public and private buildings, parks, churches, monuments and urban elements, ”adding that“ it was also part of a typological process within the main neighborhoods of Mexico City from 1925 to 1940. "
Both in the Historic Center and in the Cuauhtémoc, Juárez, Condesa, Roma Norte and Sur neighborhoods, you can appreciate the presence of Art Deco within the urban fabric. Some are more or less anonymous structures; five- or six-story residential buildings, often with a particular name written in thin steel letters above the front door (Edificio Basurto, Edificio Olga, or something similar). Others are more iconic, such as the Frontón México and the Monument to the Revolution in the Plaza de la República, the Foro Lindberg in Parque México or the Ermita Building by the architect Juan Segura, one of the first “skyscrapers” in the city.
In a territory as complex and diverse as ours, many wonder, why is it worth protecting the heritage of the city? Wouldn't it be easier and more efficient to build new structures that respond to current needs and reflect today's culture? The answer is as complex as Mexico City itself; On the one hand, we are facing a multitude of urban crises that threaten the entire population, but especially the most vulnerable and economically impoverished sectors. On the other hand, built heritage is tangible history, and safeguarding it represents more than a simple aesthetic exercise - it also represents a respect for culture and collective memory. We must not make the “clean slate” error when it comes to our historic and heritage buildings, but rather find a way in which they can start a new life, always in service to contemporary lifestyles, but with respect and care. To the past that we share.