Satellite City is a subdivision of residential area, situated in the northwest of the metropolitan region of Mexico. It was established in 1957 by the Mexican architect Luis Barragan and urbanist Mario Pani. Ideally, the main intention was to create a development project on a platform to create a different urban model that was observed in Mexico City.
An expressway was constructed that led towards the satellite town to connect to the capital city efficiently. To identify this entrance, vertical elements were erected as a central landmark that constituted the city skyline and stood out even contemplated from longer distances. Luis Barragan came into the picture in 1975, when Mario Pani instructed him to perform the gateway for the new city. Barragan further invited two of his best friends to contribute to the project: Mathias Goeritz, a German sculptor and Jesus Reyes Ferreira, a painter.
Originally, the project was planned to construct 7 towers, with the tallest one reaching 200 meters. However, due to the reduction of budget, the design was forced to be composed of 5 towers, with the tallest reaching 52 meters and the shortest, 30 meters. Initially, Goeritz wanted to paint the structure with different shades of orange. However, due to some disputes and pressure from the constructors and investors, he had to change his mind. Therefore, it was finally decided that the towers will consist of Red, Blue, Yellow, the so-called Primary colours with the addition of White.
The five towers are isosceles triangular prisms that are erected vertically into the sky on a slightly inclined plane as the viewer approaches. In this way, its verticality is accentuated like needles that are cut out in the sky, but the contrasting horizontal striations in addition to its texture gives it a definite quality of strength in its perception. The towers are completely hollow without any roofs on top although it goes unnoticed due to the enormous height of the towers. The prisms manage to trick its geometry as movement modifies its perception, sometimes as regular planes, other times as lines fleeing towards the sky: like fine vertices or like heavy walls.
Luis Barragan created the texture of concrete formwork, which were separated into fractions after an interval of 1m. The fractions were separated by horizontal grooves highlighting the structural strength. This technique usually increases the height in a perception. However, mainly they stand out for having different bright colours. The application of bright colours, arrangement of the towers, texture and scale of the project is what integrates Mexican structures with the cosmopolitan devotion.
The project was carried with the intention to showcase the inseparable union between architecture and sculpture. Barragan and Goeritz displayed the design as you pass by the gateway experiencing the different volumes of the 5 towers. Barragan referred to it as a landscape element portraying different angles of faces from all sides. It is a sculpture of 5 towers with heights ranging from 30 – 50 meters randomly deployed on a concrete slab, hard and devoid of any other element.
Therefore, the oval-shaped land in the middle of the highway surrounded by vehicles is a metaphor to represent the modern city, but only as an object or symbol and not as an integral concept that the territory was almost imagined to be so idyllic by their creators.
Shape and colours
As mentioned earlier, the towers are hollow and have no roofs on top. The triangular-shaped towers are arranged in a way that movement changes its perception, sometimes as single regular planes, which look like a solid wall, sometimes the corner edges plus 2 planes. Luis Barragan has made use of the concrete texture knurled every meter. Initially, the colour of the towers was White, Yellow, Ochre. However, it went under several modifications resulting in the bright primary colours; Red, Blue, Yellow, White.
During the Olympic games of 1968, Mathias Goerits painted the towers orange to contrast them with the blue sky. In 1989, the colours were taken down. The 6,444 square meters of its surface were painted, leaving two of its White towers, one Yellow, one Red and one Blue. Furthermore, in 2008 they were redone again by the Naucalpan City Council and private donors, removing the previous layers of paint using polyurethane foam shots and giving them their original colours again. Moreover, architectural lighting was added to highlight the structure to enhance its existence.
After the inauguration of the towers in 1958, the rise of the satellite towers gave the city a prominent landmark and iconic recognition of its identity, which in turn became the pride of its locality subsequently. Satellite towers are not only the pinnacle of modern utopias but also a collective nation propeller to the contribution of architecture.
The intrinsic strength of the sculptural composition and avant-garde vision of Luis Barragan managed to remain noticeable despite the multiple changes after its establishment. His appearance was sensory; Goeritz himself described it as painting and as emotional architecture. The local inhabitants have adapted it the way it was made and made it theirs with immense pride. The visitors understand the structure as a point of a prominent landmark.
Few visitors who walked by the towers could perceive the real scale by their perspective by touching the faces with their hands and feeling the enormous height by looking at it. Most people mistake it for buildings by looking at the plane face of the towers from one side. Some people have been spotted hugging the towers, and that is probably where the emotion that Goeritz refers to art and Barragan as architecture is depicted.