tower and heritage

revolution baking, vladimir kaspé popped out of the oven. it was 1910, mexico was overthrowing a modernist dictator and russia was getting ready for a second shot at revolution. the countries' paths would cross intensely in the next couple of decades, and major soviet figures would flock to mexico for whatever reason (be it communist intrigue, cultural fascination or running away from stalin; from trotsky and alexandra kollontai to maiakovsky and einsenstein). kaspé came after the big soviet infiltration fuss was about over (around 1942), and mexico's own version of revolution was well on its way to being "institutionalized" (that is, neutralized) through single-party corporate authoritarianism. it was also around this time that the base values of the struggle (popular, agrarian reform, social equality, wealth redistribution, etc.) were belied into those of the "peaceful revolution", or "constructive period" (urban, modernizing, industrial, middle-class, state-control, etc).

kaspé had gone to school in paris with mario pani, the pet architect of the developmentalist regime (the hand behind the unam and tlatelolco). pani invited him to mexico to be editor of arquitectura méxico, local modernist bible. kaspé also started building: the lycée franco-mexicain, the centro deportivo israelita, the economics faculty at the unam, the roussell labs. quite the hardcore functionalist, kaspé thought architecture should "furnish the country with that which is necessary and sufficient." his legacy has been kept by a private trust, that recently got its own cultural center by BH architects.

kaspé's first mexican project (1946-1948) was a multi-use, multi-function, "ahead of it's time" bulding: the super servicio lomas, now slated for demolition to open the way for oma's torre bicentenario, intended to occupy the same site. in its day, the super servicio included a gas station, a car dealership, a minimart and the ciro's de las lomas nightclub, where everett hoagland played and boppy starlets such as as los hooligans, julissa, los jiggers and enrique guzmán fought the 1960 "radio exitos" duel (apparently fans who got left outside of the packed event trashed the place). only five years ago, the super servicio lomas was trashed again ("refurbished", as they say), this time by matthai architects.

the building was hardly noticed before the tower was anounced. it wasn't listed as heritage (only a provisional "building of exceptional value" decree was anounced by the national fine arts institute in the midst of the bicentenario scandal). i heard somewhere that louise noelle, a relatively well-known architecture historian who happens to be the authority on both pani and kaspé, and who has become very outspoken against the tower, is also gabriela cuevas's (the miguel hidalgo delegada heading the snob résistance against oma and the city government, see older post) mother-in-law.

personally, i don't get this whole preservationist appeal biz. first of all, the building is not the original, it has suffered various major alterations (including to the beautiful concrete nautilus garage). moreover, its razing could actually culminate the building's pseudo-revolutionary vocation. considering the regime and culture that brought it to being, the demise of the super servicio lomas would close a mini-circle of extinguishing dissent and upheaval, the turnover to reactionary consumerism, the ultimate lasting heritage of postrevolutionary mexico. a living testimony to our failed (and still failing) path to revolution.

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