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With its countless colonial-era buildings, pre-Hispanic ruins and UNESCO-recognized landmarks, Mexico City is a hub for all things historic. But it’s also a rewarding place to admire some of Latin America’s most noteworthy modern architecture. With vibrantly creative examples from the 20th and 21st centuries, the bustling metropolis is a mecca for fans of contemporary design.
Just a few blocks from the Metropolitan Cathedral soars one of the city’s most iconic 20th-century landmarks: the Torre Latinoamericana, which was the city’s tallest building when it opened in 1956. The tower’s 42nd-floor observation deck offers some of the best views of the city.
Chapultepec, the city’s largest park, is yet another place to appreciate contemporary takes on architecture. Museo Nacional de Antropologia, which was designed in 1963 by Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, is widely regarded as one of the world’s best anthropology museums. Its clean, modern lines and gigantic concrete canopy provide a stark contrast to the ancient and historical artifacts that lie inside the exhibition halls.
Also located in the park are two art-oriented examples of modern architecture. Museo Tamayo, a strikingly geometric venue built in 1981 by Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon and Abraham Zabludovsky, offers plenty of wide-open space to exhibit the work and collections of Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo. Nearby, Museo de Arte Moderno opened in 1964 in an eye-catching building that uses materials such as white marble and fiberglass.
North of the park, in the upscale neighborhood of Polanco, lies a must-see example of 21st-century design: Museo Soumaya, a spectacularly bizarre, curved building lined with 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles. Opened in 2011, Museo Soumaya was named for the late wife of one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim, and was designed by Slim’s son-in-law, Fernando Romero. The structure provides a magnificent setting for a collection of notable works by artists including Tintoretto, Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dali.
Art and architecture lovers should also consider heading to the southern Mexico City neighborhood of San Angel to visit Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo. Designed in 1931 by Mexican painter and architect Juan O’Gorman, the building features two attached towers that served as both the home and working place for Kahlo and Rivera from 1934 to 1940.
Also located in the southern part of the city is Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. The university campus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its impressive design — by some of Mexico’s biggest architects of the 20th century — as well as its expansive murals by Rivera and David Alfaro Siquieros.
To get inside the head of one of Mexico’s most renowned 20th-century architects, travelers should schedule a visit to Casa Luis Barragan. The structure, now a museum, was the late architect’s residence. Barragan, who died in 1988, left many of his original furnishings and personal belongings, including original works by Rivera and Pablo Picasso. It’s no surprise that art and architecture often overlap in a destination as creatively rich as Mexico City.