Camino Real Polanco
Ricardo Legoretta’s Trippy City Hotel for México 68
Uncompromising, in-your-face geometry combined with the brilliant use of colour and natural light, this was the formula Ricardo Legorreta used to dazzling effect in Camino Real Polanco. Talk about a counter to corporate beige; there was nothing muted or unchallenging or inoffensive, the tonal design language of the traditional business hotel.
The hotel opened in the summer of ’68, a few months ahead of the México Olympics. The architect and city planner Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, heading the city’s organising committee, had a vision; to fuse together Aztec and Mayan designs, trad folk art and tripping-out psychedelia. And he achieved it in spades, using the artistry of fellow architects such as Modernist Ricardo Legorreta, Félix Candela and the King of Logos, graphic designer Lance Wyman.
What Camino Real Polanco does so brilliantly is pay homage to Legoretta’s Mexican heritage, leaning into Vázquez’s vision. The hand of his friend and mentor Luis Baragan is also clear. The pair met when Legorreta was Baragan’s student at UMAN. They forged a lifelong friendship.
Integrated into the design is a series of works by important artists including Mathias Goeritz’s sculptural wall and Abstracto en Dorado mural, the continuingly churning Fountain of Eternal Movement by Japanese-American landscape architect Isamu Noguchi, the subject of a major retrospective at the Barbican in Autumn 2021.
I wanted a very discreet and mysterious entrance sequence for the hotel, something to be discovered little by little as you penetrate the building. Part of the first discovery would be water, so I thought of a fountain – like many patios in Mexico, there would be a fountain. Then the concept grew in my mind of an aggressive fountain, one that provoked a reaction – vigorous, thrashing water there within the shelter of the hotel.
Not forgetting a Rufino Tamayo mural and Six Adivinanzas de un Astronauta Hindu by the surrealist Piedro Friedeberg. Whilst the original Calder sculpture Untitled with Olympic themes has gone, sold at auction for a huge sum along with the Annie Albers wall hanging, there remain some amazing pieces in a stunningly beautiful space, not to be missed.
Today the original Legorreta Aquitecos firm founded by Ricardo in 1965 continues to thrive. And, if you’re into Sam Peckinpaw movies, the once seen never forgotten, Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia a film hairdressers need to watch on Halloween was partly filmed in the hotel, as was Mozart in the Jungle.
Go see for yourself: Map location
All images the Copyright of Christopher Iwata © Find Christopher on Instagram @seaeye1