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Palacio de Justicia: Modern public architecture that transcends the history of Mexico

Wrriten by: Redacción Sordo Madaleno | August 7, 2018

You can read this article in: Español | English

This large group of buildings in Modern Mexican Architectural style was designed and built by architect Juan Sordo Madaleno (founder of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos) in collaboration with José Wiechers. Palacio de Justicia is an iconic building due to its style and innovation, and a major reference point for the era of the modern movement. It was intended to house the city and national courts.

© Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Guillermo Zamora

It occupies an entire city block of a slightly trapezoidal shape, with an approximate area of 11 000 sqm, in the Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City. It was inaugurated on October 15, 1964, by President Adolfo López Mateos.

The characteristic portico of Palacio de Justicia was designed with slender columns to give the building a strong, timeless, and elegant presence. These columns were covered with white Carrara marble, and gradually widen as they ascend from their base to their crown. This portico completely surrounds the courthouse and extends over three floors from street level. The building rises from level -1, with its ground level sited half a floor above street level, giving 4 floors in total.

© Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Guillermo Zamora

The main entrance leads to the ground floor via an impressive staircase tightly contained within stone walls, the only place where a different treatment of the façade was used.

This access culminates in a courtyard covered by a dome. This courtyard is the clear distribution element for different uses and flows. The program includes: Plenary Hall, Office of the Presidency, Auxiliary Offices, Press Offices, Central Library, Court Chambers, Civil Court, Courtroom, Criminal Court, Basement level (where the General Archive is located together with a work area for classification), and Personal Private Offices, four payment windows and a strongroom.

© Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Guillermo Zamora

The complex also comprises two towers, 13 stories high. The South Tower houses the Civil Courts, while the North Tower houses the Juvenile Courts. Both towers share a base at ground level and at first-floor level are connected by a terrace. Subsequently, the remaining 11 levels are separated as parallel towers. To facilitate communication and flow between the two towers three bridges were designed to connect the lift lobbies in each tower, located on floors 3, 6 and 9. Vehicle access to the underground parking is located in the middle of the towers on Doctor Jiménez avenue.

The facade of the three volumes of the complex was designed with large floor-to-ceiling windows (through the mezzanine) mounted with a subtle tilt on aluminum frames. This decision represented a very innovative design and allowed more light and natural ventilation to enter, as well as providing better views.

© Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Guillermo Zamora

We are posting this new series of articles that present the most outstanding architectural works of Juan Sordo Madaleno, one of the main references of modern architecture in Mexico, with the intention of serving as a guide for the national architecture’s study. These texts and images are from the Archive of Sordo Madaleno.

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