Reflections on the Mexico Tour


Sanika Kulkarni


Newsletter, modern, Study Grant, preservation, Mexico City, historic preservation, modern architecture, docomomo
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Traveling and experiencing spaces firsthand definitely helps one gain a better understanding and appreciation of architecture. In addition to the enriching experience of pursuing my graduate degree in Historic Preservation at Pratt Institute, being selected as a Docomomo US Mexico Study Grant fellow has developed in me an appreciation for the preservation of modern architecture. By the end of the trip, I was inspired to investigate the preservation challenges of modern architecture in India as the topic for my thesis.


As the plane flew over Mexico City, the aerial view of gave me the feeling the city was very similar to India. My feelings were confirmed on the first day as we explored the City's historic core. We were able to experience how locals use the space for pop-up markets and celebrate their rich heritage by performing various traditional dances.

Exploring the historic core of Mexico City helped me understand the context of the architectural evolution of the city, and seeing all the examples of colonial architecture, I could not help but be reminded of Mumbai, India. 

The next few days of the trip were spent exploring the modern architecture found in the city. As we walked through the tiny lanes to the Luis Barragán House, a slideshow of all the images I had seen in books and online during my undergraduate studies played in my mind. One of the first images I had seen of Barragán’s project was a picture of the terrace of the house, and I was looking forward to taking a similar picture of my own. However, upon arriving at the house I was disappointed to find there was an additional fee to take pictures in the house. Now reflecting back on my experience, I am still able to recall each and every moment spent there and do not regret not being able to capture the spaces in pictures. Sometimes not having the artificial eyes of the camera lens can help you absorb the actual experience better, making it even more meaningful.


I was again reminded of India, as we embarked on a day trip to Teotihuacan, one of the largest cities which flourished during the Golden Age of Mesoamerica’s. We saw a few hillocks full of colorful temporary and permanent dwellings, and it was fascinating to find out that though these were not designated housing sites, immigrants who had come to Mexico City from various villages had made these hillocks their homes. This reminded me of squatter settlements in India which over time have become a thriving economy in and of itself. 

I was especially excited to see was the Los Manantiales restaurant designed by Félix Candela though it was heartbreaking to see the damage the structure had suffered during the devastating earthquake that took place on September 19, 2017. Another highlight was visiting the Bacardi Factory and Bottling plant. We were able to see both the corporate building designed by Mies van der Rohe and bottling plant designed by Félix Candela. As an architect, I felt use of freestanding shells to house the bottling plant was an innovative solution for late 1950’s as I considered the use of space. Félix Candela’s design provides an elegant solution that includes beautiful triangular joints where the two shells intersect each other, and allows natural light to peek through the glass windows at the seams. The fact that the buildings are still in use today is a testament to the maintenance, care, and appreciation of the structures. 

As a student of preservation, this 10-day trip is an experience that will continue to be very special to me. Meeting both scholars and architecture enthusiasts, and seeing the appreciation for architecture in Mexico City, made me realize how much work needs to be done in India to help locals appreciate and respect the architecture India has.


It was also a pleasure to get to know the other travel grant recipient, Sarah Yoon, who is currently working as a preservation planner for the City of Aspen. Many thanks to Docomomo US for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this trip.