Jardines del Pedregal
Jardines del Pedregal (English: Rocky Gardens) or simply El Pedregal is an upscale residential colonia (neighborhood) in southern Mexico City. Its borders are San Jerónimo Avenue and Ciudad Universitaria at the north, Insurgentes Avenue at the east and Periférico at south and west. Its 1,250 acres (5.1 km2) were the major real estate project undertaken by Mexican modernist architect Luis Barragán. When it was originally developed, in the mid-1940s in the lava fields of the Pedregal de San Ángel, it was probably the biggest urban development the city had seen. The first house to be built here was the studio/home of architect Max Cetto.
The area has changed a lot since its original development but even as its modernist spirit and its original elements of ecosystem protection are gone critics have described its original development, the houses and gardens as a turning point in Mexican architecture. Some of the old modernist houses have been catalogued as part of Mexico’s national patrimony.
The Pedregal lava fields were formed by the eruption of the Xitle volcano around the year 5000 BC, however there are documented eruptions up to the year 400 AD.
The area near what is currently el Pedregal, called Cuicuilco, was inhabited since ca. 1700 BC. Around 300 BC this area contained what was probably the biggest city in the Valley of Mexico at the time. Its importance started to decay around the 100 BC and was completely empty by 400 AD.
In the mid-1940s Luis Barragán began a project to urbanize the area and protect its ecosystem. Barragán had the idea of developing El Pedregal promoting the harmony between architecture and landscape. The first structures built on the site were the Plaza de las Fuentes, or Plaza of the Fountains, the demonstration gardens and demonstration houses by Barragán and Max Cetto.
Plaza de las Fuentes
El Pedregal's original main entrance, the Plaza de las Fuentes, was completed by the second half of 1949, and was located at the intersection of Fuentes and San Jerónimo avenues. The only remaining element of the plaza is the magnificent concrete Animal del Pedregal a sculpture by Mathias Goeritz, inspired by a prehistoric animal figure etched into the rocks of the Pedregal.
Model Gardens and Casas Muestra
The Model Gardens were designed by Luis Barragán for public inspection and planned as models for the development of private space.
The Casas Muestra were intended for publicity and sales purposes. The first one was built in 1950 according to the project by Max Cetto in collaboration with Luis Barragán (Av. Fuentes 130). Next to it, on Av. Las Fuentes 140, followed the home acquired by the painter Roberto Berdecio and designed by Max Cetto in 1951. Along with these residences, the Model Gardens were intended to entice prospective buyers and demonstrate the Pedregal's potential as a site for garden-homes. They were to illustrate Barragán's idea of correct building, promoting the sort of harmony between architecture and landscape that Barragán desired. Occupying about 7.4 acres (30,000 m2), these gardens were enclosed by volcanic-stone walls and iron fences and entered through metal or rough-hewn wood gates.
During summer evenings in the 1950s, classic Spanish plays, produced by Barragán and the painter and sculptor Juan Soriano, were performed here for the general public.
For sculptural effect, rocks and vegetation were left largely in place, crevices between the lava formations were cleared as paths, and at several points, rough-cut stairways passed between rock terraces. These stairways led to pools or fountains of various configurations, or to small patches of flat ground, where loam was brought in and lawns planted. The smooth surfaces of the lawns and pools provided contrast to the jagged rocks, while fountains lent kinetic and aural elements to the mix.
Although some of the original modernist residences still remain a lot of the original architecture has been substituted by more ostentatious structures. Because the original houses were built in large plots, some have been converted to horizontal condominiums or now house schools.
The Plaza de las Fuentes has been almost completely destroyed and large new office buildings now crowd it on either side, it is no longer the main entrance but just an exit street from El Pedregal.
- 5. Aptilón, Alejandro y Alfonso Pérez Méndez, Las Casas del Pedregal 1947-1968 (2007), Ed. Gustavo Gili, Barcelona