The Story of a Studio, Three Generations and a Whole Lot of Architecture

Wrriten by: Redacción Sordo Madaleno | September 21, 2018

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The foundation of Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos dates back to the late 1930s, when Juan Sordo Madaleno completed his studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and completed a construction as part of his thesis, a residential building at the corner of Monterrey and Álvaro Obregón streets—now demolished—in the famous Roma neighborhood of Mexico City.

Juan Sordo Madaleno had already begun his professional career with a number of completed constructions, and in the mid-1940s set up his architecture practice on the top floor of the Reforma y Morelos building in the Juárez neighborhood. This site is now the heart of the Reforma Colón development. This building, which he designed in collaboration with Augusto H. Álvarez, forms part of the outstanding lineage of modern architecture designed in Mexico with such elegance.

Reforma & Morelos. @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by Guillermo Zamora

At the time, it was considered one of the finest examples of modern office building design. (1) This view is based on how its external appearance reflects the functionality of its interior and the successful balance of materials and proportions.

The building introduced significant innovations in design and technology for the period, such as adjustable interior walls for personalized layouts and an invisible air conditioning system.

Reforma & Morelos. @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by Guillermo Zamora

Juan Sordo Madaleno’s own architecture studio incorporated the design area with some half-dozen drawing desks, a review room, and a private office. The studio included a broad terrace on the top floor. This Corbusier-influenced element enhanced the distinction of this significant point in modern architecture; as well as being a peerless position from which to enjoy the expansive ninth-floor views of Reforma Avenue.

Reforma & Morelos. @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by Guillermo Zamora

The exact dates during which the office occupied the Reforma y Morelos building are not clear. However, files kept in the Sordo Madaleno Historical Archive indicate that for a period it also occupied a building on Darwin street in the Anzures neighborhood.

The construction of a collaborative work by Juan Sordo Madaleno and his son Javier Sordo Madaleno Bringas—now President of the Board—became a reality in 1981 in the prestigious neighborhood of Lomas de Chapultepec. A residential project that was at one point Juan Sordo Madaleno’s own home, from the outset it was intended to incorporate the architecture studio.

Reforma 2076 Patio and Mathias Goeritz’s Christ sculpture. @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos

To date, it is a building that reflects the elegance and excellent execution of architectural elements that distinguishes Sordo Madaleno’s architectural career, such as for example the direct connection with the natural world thanks to ample open spaces and significant openings to daylight. The curiosities found in this house and studio include artworks by leading Mexican figures such as Chucho Reyes and Mathias Goeritz.

Sordo Madaleno’s studio in Reforma 2076. Year:1981 @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by Armando Salas Portugal

Upon the death of Juan Sordo Madaleno in 1985, the architecture studio passed into the hands of Javier, who leads it today with the same passion as he did over 30 years ago. From this office, many of the iconic projects of Javier’s career were developed, such as the Hotel Westin Regina Los Cabos, the San Josemaría Escrivá Church in Santa Fe, the Moliere 222 building, Antara Fashion Hall, the 26 CRITS and many others.

The impact of the evolution from hand-drawn plans to digital representation were visible in the modification of the studio spaces, which could now fit more people in a smaller space. This had the positive outcome of increasing the size of the office staff, without having to make major alterations to the building.

Sordo Madaleno’s studio in Reforma 2076. Year: 2014 @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by HH Fotografía

The drawing studio was distinguished by having one of the most striking views in the building, thanks to the tall windows that provided a direct visual connection with the Third Section of the Bosque de Chapultepec park.

The third generation arrived with Fernando Sordo Madaleno de Haro joining the executive architectural design team alongside Javier, the creation of Grupo Sordo Madaleno (in 2008), and José Juan Sordo Madaleno de Haro taking charge of the real estate department, the continual expansion of Sordo Madaleno demanded that the firm move its headquarters to new offices.

Since late 2017, after 36 years at Reforma 2076, SMA and GSM moved to one of the fastest-growing economic and cultural areas of Mexico City. The new central offices occupy three floors in the Corporativo Antara II building, designed by SMA itself.

SMA-GSM Offices. @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by Rafael Gamo

The atmosphere is a more corporate one, but the design of the interiors helps to transfer the welcoming ambiance of the old office to this contemporary space notable for its use of neutral, sober and elegant materials, with carefully thought-out proportions for the good operational and logistical functioning of both organizations: the architecture studio and the real estate development office.

SMA-GSM Offices. @ Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, photograph by Rafael Gamo

One eye-catching element stands out in the new HQ. A white sculptural staircase that visual and physically connects the three floors endows a distinctive air to the new central offices, and an atmosphere that speaks of the current phase of our work.


(1) Miquel Adrià & Juan Manuel Heredia, Juan Sordo Madaleno (1916-1985), Mexico City, Arquine, 2013, p. 268

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