|Opening||April 30, 1956|
|Antenna spire||204.0 m (669.3 ft)|
|Roof||188.0 m (616.8 ft)|
|Floor area||28,000 m2 (300,000 sq ft)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Augusto H. Alvarez|
|Developer||La Latinoamericana, Seguros de Vida, S.A|
|Structural engineer||Leonardo Zeevaert
Nathan M. Newmark
The Torre Latinoamericana (literally, "Latin-American Tower") is a building in downtown Mexico City, Mexico. Its central location, height (183 m or 597 ft; 45 stories) and history make it one of the city's most important landmarks. It is also widely recognized internationally as an engineering and architectural landmark since it was the world's first major skyscraper successfully built on highly active seismic land.
Torre Latinoamericana was Mexico City's tallest building from 1956, when it was built, until the 1984 completion of the Torre Ejecutiva Pemex, which is 22m higher (although, if one subtracts the height of the TV antenna atop the Torre Latinoamericana, it was surpassed already in 1972 by the 207m high Hotel de México, which was subsequently remodelled and turned into the World Trade Center Mexico City).
Many think it was the first skyscraper in Mexico. However, skyscrapers may have first appeared in Mexico City between 1910 and 1935. The tallest of the time, the International Capital Building (Edificio Internacional de Capitalización) was completed in 1935. This building was surpassed by the Edificio Miguel E. Abed, which, in turn, was surpassed by the Latinoamericana Tower. The Latinoamericana Tower opened its doors on April 30, 1956. It was then the tallest building in Latin America, and the fourth in height in the world outside New York.
The Torre Latinoamericana was built to headquarter La Latinoamericana, Seguros, S.A., an insurance company founded on April 30, 1906. The building took its name from this company as it began to be built during the postwar boom of the late 1940s, that lasted until the early 1970s. At the time of its construction, the insurance company was controlled by the Mexican tycoon Miguel S. Macedo, who headed one of Mexico's largest financial concerns of that time in this country.
Originally the insurance company occupied a smaller building at the same location. In 1947 it temporarily relocated to a nearby office while the tower was built. Once it was finished in 1956, the insurance company moved into the tower's 4th to 8th floors. The rest of the building's office space was for lease. At the time of its completion the Torre Latinoamericana was the 45th tallest building in the world. Its public observation deck on the 44th floor is the highest in Mexico City.
The project was designed and executed by Dr Leonardo Zeevaert and his brother Adolfo Zeevaert, Mexican civil engineers born in Veracruz. Nathan M. Newmark was the main consultant. Its design consists of a steel frame construction and deep-seated piles, which were necessary given Mexico City's frequent earthquakes and muddy soil composition, which makes the terrain tricky to build on. Prior to the construction, both engineers carried out a number of soil mechanics studies in the construction site, and designed the structure accordingly. Today this is common and even mandatory practice, but at the time it was quite an innovation.
The tower gained notoriety when it withstood the magnitude 7.9 1957 earthquake, thanks to its outstanding design and strength. This feat garnered it recognition in the form of the American Institute of Steel Construction Award of Merit for "the tallest building ever exposed to a huge seismic force" (as is attested by plaques in the building's lobby and observation deck). However, an even greater test came, by far, with the magnitude 8.1 September 19, 1985 earthquake, which destroyed many buildings in Mexico City, especially the ones built downtown, in the tower's neighborhood. The Torre Latinoamericana withstood this force without problems, and has thus become a symbol of safety in Mexico City. Today the tower is considered one of the safest buildings in the city despite its potentially dangerous location.
While it was being built, detractors said that there was no way a building of that size could withstand one of Mexico City's earthquakes. It was indeed the very first really high skyscraper built on a very active seismic zone. It was also the first one built with a fully aluminum and glass (both clear and cobalt-colored) façade.
There is a legend that on the day of the 1957 earthquake, Dr. Leonardo Zeevaert was inspecting something or other on the roof of the tower, and that he got to see and feel how his tower withstood the quake while the surrounding buildings collapsed. The truth is that during the September, 1985 earthquake, which took place at 7:19, Adolfo Zeevaert was already inside his office on the 25th floor. From that vantage point he was able to witness the destruction taking place while several buildings collapsed and the dust cloud that followed, all the while feeling the movement inside the tower. It could arguably be said that it was the first time that a builder and designer of a tall building witnessed first hand its behavior during a massive earthquake.
The tower is now co-owned by its original builder La Latinoamericana, Seguros, Inmobiliaria Torre Latinoamericana, a real estate firm. In 2002 seven of the 44 floors were purchased by Telcel and Banco Inbursa, both firms controlled by Mexican businessman Carlos Slim.
In 2006, the tower celebrated its 50th anniversary. A ceremony was held on April 30, 2006, which included the reopening of the newly-remodelled 37th to 44th floors, a site museum, and a fully remodeled Mirador, or observation deck, designed by Danish-born architect Palle Seiersen Frost. Also on that occasion were unveiled some recognitions granted by several architectural, engineering and communications institutions. The Torre Latinoamericana is also a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.
Plans for the tower include a facelift, which will redo the building's exteriors using new materials while maintaining the original design and look; since the tower is considered a historical monument, its exterior look cannot be altered.
- The building features in a photograph by Mexican photographer Enrique Metinides when a suicidal woman climbed out on to the ledge of the 27th floor in 1993. A Red Cross worker managed to prevent her death .
- The tower can be briefly seen from inside a helicopter during the beginning of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.
- It's also featured prominently in Alfonso Cuarón's Sólo con tu pareja.
- As a fixture of the Mexico City skyline, the tower also appears in the opening scene of Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros.
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