Mario Pani Darqui

Mario Pani Darqui (1911-1993) was a renowned Mexican architect who was characterized by his urban, functional and international style. His works were notably influenced by the theorist Charles-Édouard Jeanneret – known as Le Corbusier – and by the prevailing modern and universal leanings of the 20th century.

Pani’s architectural work was very extensive; He participated in a total of 136 projects, including the construction of the Nonoalco Tlatelolco Urban Complex (1964), the National Conservatory of Music (1946) and the Plaza Hotel (1945). He also made several collaborations with Venezuelan architects, such as the Club Venezuela project (1960) with Hilario Galguera.

Mario Pani Darqui

According to the author Jesús Rubio Merino ( Mexico, chess game. 2012), Pani constituted his architectural vision based on the image of the chess player, since his buildings were formed through a strategic, mimetic and opposed perspective. According to Rubio, this conception is crucial to understand the functioning of Mexican architecture and urbanism during the 20th century.

It should be noted that Pani is considered one of the most important Latin American architects of the 20th century, not only because he practiced architecture in its most practical sense, but also because he encouraged its development in theoretical applications.

For example, this architect served as a teacher and as director of the Mexican Academy of Architecture. In addition, he founded the magazine Arquitectura / México , where he promoted different styles and facilitated the expression of the interests of the young architects of the time.

Article index

  • one


    • 1.1

      Studies and return to Mexico

    • 1.2

      First works

    • 1.3

      Realization of public and multifamily buildings

    • 1.4

      Latest works

  • two

    Architectonic style

    • 2.1

      Influence of Le Corbusier

    • 2.2

      Materials and other aspects of Mario Pani’s architecture

  • 3


    • 3.1

      National Conservatory of Music (1946-1947)

    • 3.2

      Acapulco Airport (1951)

    • 3.3

      The urban ensembles Presidente Juárez (1950) and Presidente Alemán (1946)

  • 4



Mario Pani Darqui was born on March 29, 1911 in Mexico City, just a few months before the Mexican Revolution. He was educated in an aristocratic family, where culture had an important value for all its members.

During her adolescence, Pani had the opportunity to carry out her educational training in Europe. This was possible thanks to the fact that his uncle Alberto J. Pani and his father Arturo Pani exercised diplomatic tasks on behalf of the Mexican government.

Consequently, Mario Pani grew up surrounded by huge cities structured with varied urban culture. The author was able to travel numerous times to Venice, Rome, Madrid and Brussels, which allowed him to be influenced and sensitized through all the cultural and intellectual elements that surrounded him.

During Pani’s academic training in Europe, Mexico faced an ideological upheaval that would later define the direction of Mexican architecture. On the one hand, there was an artistic and philosophical current that supported internationalization; on the other, there was a search for a root that would define the national identity.

Studies and return to Mexico

Between 1928 and 1933, Pani studied at the École des Beux Arts in Paris, specifically in the studio of the architect George Gromont. During this period he also met Paul Valery, a French poet and philosopher who authorized him to translate his work Eupalinos o el Arquitecto into Spanish.

When he turned 23, Pani decided to return to Mexico. Once established, he joined the professional scene in Mexico City; This was in a favorable situation, since at that time there was a period of development and industrial thrust that in turn was driving the architectural discipline.

According to the author Clara Yunuen Galindo, in her text Centro Urbano Presidente Alemán by Mario Pani in Mexico City (2012), Mario Pani was a privileged young man who had a comfortable economic situation, however, the architect was known for his simplicity and for his demure spirit.

Likewise, Galindo affirms that during this period Pani quickly adapted to the tasks of his profession and responded effectively to the requirements of each of the projects, managing to link his European experiences with the Mexican inclinations of the moment.

In addition, the architect agreed in a particular way with the theoretical proposals of José Villagrán, who also raised the need to solve the national problems of the moment through the avant-garde contribution, which offered new construction systems, techniques and materials.

First works

Pani’s early works clearly reflected the influence of his training at the École de Beux-Arts, as they displayed a careful and functional organization, as well as an axial composition and a slight tendency to the monumental. These buildings were built with visibly modern materials.

These characteristics can be seen in the Hotel Reforma, the Hotel Alameda and the Hotel Plaza, both erected in Mexico City. However, it was not until 1945 when Pani began to enjoy greater recognition, when he developed the project of the Normal School of Teachers. A year later he held the National Conservatory of Music.

All these works have in common their functional resolution and their formal innovation. In addition, in several of these projects, Pani worked with important Mexican artists such as Luis Monasterio, Clemente Orozco, and Armando Quezada.

Realization of public and multifamily buildings

Later, Pani dedicated himself to carrying out public health works, such as the Hospital for tuberculosis in Veracruz. He also intervened in the National Hospital Plan, whose project culminated in the construction of the National Medical Center in 1944. This building was carried out with the help of José Villagrán.

In 1946, Pani noticed the remarkable urban growth, which generated a great interest in collective housing. For Pani, it was necessary to develop an urban planning organization that would offer residences to the dense population of Mexico City. Therefore, he decided to participate in a project where he proposed to build large residential and multi-family works.

In 1947, the architect managed to put his theories into practice. During that year, the General Directorate of Civil Pensions commissioned a project of 200 single-family houses, located between Félix Cuevas and Coyoacán Avenues. These buildings were called the Presidente Miguel Alemán Urban Center and their construction was completed in 1947.

Between 1950 and 1952, Pani – together with the architect Salvador Ortega – built the Presidente Juárez Urban Center. For this construction, the architect invited some visual artists to decorate the facades, among them the Guatemalan painter Carlos Mérida, who was in charge of designing the bas-reliefs of the stairs; This design was inspired by pre-Columbian forms.

This plastic integration of art is considered by some authors as a good attempt to overcome the aggressive aspect of certain materials and offer buildings a greater diversity within their composition.

Presidente Juárez Urban Center

Latest works

After this, Pani continued to build residential complexes such as El multifamiliar para teachers de la Ciudad Universitaria (1952), La Unidad Habitacional de Santa Fe (1954) and the Unidad Habitacional Nonoalco-Tlateloco (1964). This last project was intended to integrate different economic strata of society and had to contain more than one hundred thousand people.

Later, he completed his participation in the housing field and dedicated himself to promoting modern architecture through the resources of the National School of Architecture (1948) and the University of Anáhuac.

He was also a notable diffuser of the new architectural proposals in the magazine Arquitectura / México , founded by himself. This magazine remained in force for more than forty years and published 119 texts.

In 1978, Mario Pani created the National Academy of Architecture and in 1986 he was awarded the National Prize for the Arts. Finally, he passed away on February 23, 1993.

Architectonic style

The strict and academic education in which Mario Pani was trained made his early works remain faithful to academism. These first compositions were characterized by granting a remarkable value to the ornament and the form.

However, years later – when he began to conceive the housing units – Pani stripped himself of certain architectural canons and began with an architecture more in line with the modern movement.

In a publication of Arquitectura / México (1966), the architect made evident his intention to completely transform Mexico City through urban projects. In this text, he established that the new architecture should “attend to the vitality of the whole” and should be focused on building a principle of social justice.

Influence of Le Corbusier

In his different writings, Pani reflected his influence from Le Corbusier. For example, he claimed that his urban models — as a key to the urbanism of the future — were inspired by La Ville Radieuse , an architectural proposal known for being a milestone in the history of urban planning.

Similarly, Pani compared the Miguel Alemán Urban Complex (1929) with La Unité d’Habitation de Marseille. In both works the author criticized the excess of integration of different typologies, arguing that in the Presidente Juárez Urban Center (1952) a more optimal solution was achieved, since there was a diversity of dwellings in different buildings but this did not compromise the structure of the buildings. the building.

From Le Corbusier the Mexican architect took an interest in linking traditional architectural lines with the modern needs of the moment. In other words, both authors wanted to introduce international culture without completely breaking with the indigenous manifestations of their country of origin.

In addition, Pani, like Le Corbusier, sought to compromise his talent with the field of general communication and reason. Therefore, both architects were interested that their contributions could be applied universally and maintained a useful character.

Materials and other aspects of Mario Pani’s architecture

Pani was characterized by proposing materials and geometric combinations that required little maintenance, such as partition, stone and reinforced concrete. It also stood out for including the participation of other artistic manifestations, such as murals, sculptural groups and reliefs.

For example, in the Meritorious National School of Teachers he had the collaboration of the muralist José Clemente Orozco and the sculptor Luis Ortiz Monasterio, who were integrated effectively to the modern demands of the architect.

In conclusion, Pani’s style stood out for fusing international and modern elements with Mexican aesthetic inclinations. In addition, its buildings were focused on a useful character that would provide social well-being to dense populations.

Likewise, although his style was influenced by strong academic rigor, Pani knew how to incorporate certain elements that gave an organic and dynamic character to his compositions. This he achieved through the introduction of other artistic manifestations, such as painting and sculpture.


Some of the most popular works by Mario Pani Darqui were the following:

National Conservatory of Music (1946-1947)

National Conservatory of Music of Mexico. Source: user UB / CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For Mario Pani this was one of his most important creations. This was due to the fact that the architect played the cello from a very young age, so he became romantically involved with this building. The conservatory stands out for its pleasant gardens and for its remarkable windows, which enjoy modern and organic curves.

Allegorical figures made by Armando Quezada were introduced in this work. These huge sculptures decorate the main entrance of the building and contrast harmoniously with the simple and minimalist lines of the rest of the façade.

Acapulco Airport (1951)

Current facade of the Juan N. Álvarez International Airport in Acapulco. Source: Mitrush / CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1950s, there was a tourist boom in the coastal city of Acapulco, so it was necessary to build a modern airport. For this, the participation of Pani and Enrique del Moral was requested, who were influenced by the Pampulha group (Oscar Niemeyer) to carry out this building.

During this construction, Pani had to practice the elaboration of an environmental architecture, since the warm climate of the area required certain adjustments that were not necessary in Mexico City. Later, this airport was demolished, so there are only photographic testimonies of the construction.

From this time on, the architect built several houses in the coastal area, including his home. He also built hotels, condominiums and a yacht club.

The urban ensembles Presidente Juárez (1950) and Presidente Alemán (1946)

Multifamily Presidente Alemán. Source: Susleriel / CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although Pani did not invent the concept of multi-family homes, it was he who introduced it to Mexico. The idea of ​​building vertical cities was taken from Le Corbusier and Pani conceived it as a solution to the population growth of the middle class of Mexico City.

Consequently, it can be affirmed that the Presidente Juárez and Presidente Alemán urban complexes took the concept of housing to a level never before seen in the history of Mexican architecture. His influence was so remarkable that on many occasions the German President Center was taken as the setting for various films and used for publicity.


  1. Benevolo, L. (1977) History of modern architecture. Retrieved on November 19 from Google books.
  2. Colomina, B; Corbusier, L. (1994) Privacy and publicity: moder architecture as mass media. Retrieved on November 19, 2019 from
  3. Galindo, C. (2012) President Alemán Urban Center of Mario Pani in Mexico City. Retrieved on November 19, 2019 from the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
  4. Jencks, C. (173) Modern movements in architecture . Retrieved on November 19, 2019 from
  5. Rubio, J. (2013) Mexico: chess game . Mario Pani. Retrieved on November 19, 2019 from

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