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.
- The building is named for Juan Ildefonso de Padilla, second Marquis of Santa Fe de Guardiola. The Marquis’ home stood here at the end of the 17th century. Prior to that it had been a plaza of the San Francisco Monastery. In the 19th century, a house often imitated even to this day, stood here. La casa de los perros was thus named for two lions and two dogs, sculptures standing on its roof. (At present, several other Casas de los perros call Mexico City home. The nearest is an apartment building facing the Colegio de las Vizcainas a few blocks to the south.) The Emperor Maximilian dedicated a statue of Jose Maria Morelos in front of the house in 1865.
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