Javier Sordo Madaleno
Chairman and President
Grupo Sordo Madaleno (GSM)
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View from the Top

Designing How People Live, Work and Play

Tue, 11/01/2016 - 09:50

Q: What are Mexico’s most urgent needs in terms of functional architecture and how has the firm adapted to these needs?

A: There are various critical issues at hand. When the firm started out in 1937, the city was small and today there are many needs to be addressed in terms of design. Transportation and mobility are presenting some of the largest challenges and when designing developments, it is important to take into consideration the specific conditions in which people live, work and play because people will only venture outside of this area on special occasions. By taking this into consideration in the design, it will drastically reduce car usage, which would lead to establishing more cohesive forms of public transportation, as well as influencing the public’s way of thinking.

As time passes, projects grow larger, and we now see 600,000m2 of leasing area available throughout the city due to the diversified use of the space for housing, hotels, office and retail. These types of multi-use projects are immense in size but are beneficial for the development of the city. Ultimately, the most important thing in design is to create value in every project, with the building increasing the value of its surroundings. When we built Antara in Mexico City, it completely transformed an area that was once filled with industrial plants into the “New Polanco,” which is now one of the most sophisticated areas in city, filled with corporate headquarters, museums and offices.

For these types of transformations, it is essential to plan in advance, which is another challenge that Mexico is facing. Government planning is carried out according to the sixyear terms of the election cycle. The country would benefit more if it was planned further in advance. This would allow infrastructure projects to fully develop, as well as create a clear structure for the people and the city.

Q: Why should architecture go hand in hand with the construction and development process of projects?

A: Architecture is not just about beauty, it is about creating an experience that integrates all of the senses into an environment that an architect has assembled. It is also not only the design but the way it is operated and managed. It is vital that the spaces are leased efficiently and that there is an adequate mix of tenants. We began to create our own leasing agreements because it was an essential factor to the success of our projects. Whenever we design a new project, we are always conscious of the leasing of the building, as well as the business aspects, such as securing loans. Architects tend to want to spend more money to make their projects more alluring but on the financial side one starts to question whether certain things are necessary or will generate value. We began forming partnerships with tenants, such as Hamley’s and El Ganzo, which we later franchised as part of GSM. GSM has been operating centers for over 40 years and has gained a complete understanding of the most prevalent problems.

Q: How is GSM taking advantage of the tourism boom in Mexico?

A: GSM is working on six different hotels, including Park Hyatt and the expansion of Antara in Mexico City, Hyatt in Guadalajara, Hyatt in Playa del Carmen and another full ownership timeshare and hotel in Cabo San Lucas. Hotel projects require a great amount of detail and dedication to create that perfect environment for visitors. Hotels used to be cold and it was an arduous task to break the mold of what hotels should look like and the features it should have. A difficult trend to understand is having bathtubs in all of the rooms when showers are far more efficient and decades passed before the paradigm was finally broken. Lobby bars were also extremely popular and hotels could not eliminate them because people were accustomed to their presence. These are examples of exactly how challenging it can be to shift trends and mindsets, as well as creating new types of environments where people can truly interact. Investors are often wary when carrying out these types of changes because the uncertainty is too high.

Q: What new projects is GSM working on that will change Mexico’s paradigms of architecture and design?

A: GSM is designing two of the largest projects in Latin America, which are the Mitikah Tower in Coyoacan neighborhood and the Colon Roundabout in Reforma, both in Mexico City. We are developing the blueprints for Mitikah, which will adjoin the Bancomer Building and Palacio de Hierro Coyoacan. In the Colon Roundabout, we have secured 3,000m2 of land to develop a mixeduse complex that will contain about 450,000m2 of leasable space for commercial, office, residential and cultural centers. The importance of these projects is that we are creating an entirely new environment and a new perspective of the city in the hope that this will change the perceptions of living in a city. 

Combining a lack of organization with accelerated urbanization will only lead to more chaos but these projects will create new design standards for future cities around the globe. GSM is working closely with the government, which is essential for the development of the blueprints because it will incorporate 30-40 blocks of surrounding areas. This collaboration will help us better understand the impact that it will have on the area, as well as how we can improve the lives of the local community. These two architectural designs will create a city within a city that will truly bring value to the communities.

Q: What legacy does GSM want to leave behind for future generations?

A: The firm has been passed down from generation to generation and these new generations of young architects are beginning to completely operate the office. The most important thing at the moment is to make sure that the new generation of architects become extremely successful and more sophisticated than ever. My father’s buildings, such as President in Chapultepec or María Isabel Sheraton on Reforma, have aged beautifully throughout the years. They are simple and timeless pieces of architecture and part of our legacy is that these buildings withstand the test of time.

ARTZ, Grupo Sordo Madaleno, Mexico City