Plaza Satélite, from architectural success to retail landmark

Wrriten by: Redacción Sordo Madaleno | March 3, 2019

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Over Sordo Madaleno’s more than 80 year career, one of the commercial projects that has met with the greatest success has been Plaza Satélite, a major landmark in Ciudad Satélite to the north-west of Mexico City. Its significance has been such that it is now one of the largest and best-known shopping malls in Latin America, due to its range of stores and its status as the main center for social interaction and encounter in the area. Here we present a brief history of the complex.

Plaza Satélite is an original project designed by Juan Sordo Madaleno, the founder of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos. This major retail complex was opened on October 13, 1971 after three years of construction. It contained 150 retail units, including four anchor stores: Sears, Sanborns, Liverpool and the former Paris Londres department store. Its location on the Boulevard Manuel Ávila Camacho—the north end of Mexico City’s major beltway—was a significant factor in the success of the shopping center and also led to economic and urban development in the surrounding area.

Plaza Satelite under construction, 1970. © Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Fondo Colección FICA

From an architectural perspective, the first phase of the complex was resolved by means of an internal circuit that starts from a central plaza measuring 50m x 50m, with two parallel axis of circulation leading to the anchor stores strategically located at each end of the central volume. The parking volumes were positioned around the perimeter of the site. A covered pedestrian street was formed by sequences of plazas with transparent roofs, allowing natural light to enter. The store façades were opened to the circulations, thereby integrating all the internal spaces.

Plaza Satelite, 1971. © Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Fondo Colección FICA

In 1995 the complex underwent a major expansion, increasing its size to 240 stores and a new 15-screen Cinépolis complex. In this phase, the modern style of Juan Sordo Madaleno was transformed into a colorful and light-filled aesthetic, by placing domes with openings in the passages and employing earth hues for the finishes. This was the second architectural intervention by Javier Sordo Madaleno Bringas, current president of GSM.

Three years later, in 1998, the Palacio de Hierro department store arrived with a new extension to the complex, again designed by SMA. An imposing solid rectangular volume stands out from the main way in, with an entrance that weaves together great steel columns.

Palacio de Hierro’s facade, project by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos.

The current renovation project, in addition to contemplating the remodeling and expansion of the entire commercial plaza, stands out as an important architectural and real estate challenge, succeeding in the task of not halting commercial operations. This represented the third intervention by Sordo Madaleno. As we have seen, each generation has left its mark and now the complex has become a site for contemporary life, using current materials and meeting the needs of today, while retaining its modern architectural essence.

Plaza Satelite, 1999.

A new aesthetic was employed in the renewal of the center as a social and architectural landmark for the zone. Inside and out, the design presents contemporary, timeless features using timber, steel, and stone as key materials. To improve the lived experience of the spaces, new trees were planted and outdoor areas designed, providing natural illumination and ventilation. These areas offer a harmonious and pleasant environment for users, balancing the retail area.

Plaza Satelite, 2018. © Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Jaime Navarro

From its origins through to this latest phase, users have appropriated this shopping center and used the spaces it offers as areas for social interaction and encounter. To foster this motive, new public spaces were opened up within, including the central zone that will become an open plaza to host different types of events.

Plaza Satelite, 2018. © Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photo by Jaime Navarro

As a result, Plaza Satélite now has a total built area of 548,000 m2, 180,000 m2 of retail space and an affluence of 24 million visitors per year. This makes it one of the biggest shopping centers in all of Latin America.

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