How do we experience Candela’s shells today?

Last January Dennis Smith (’16) had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City where he visited five of Felix Candela’s best-known structures: the Chapel of Lomas de Cuernavaca; the Church of San Antonio de las Huertas; the Church of the Medalla Milagrosa; the Cosmic Rays Pavilion; and Los Manantiales restaurant. Here he talks about his experience:

“One of the most striking things I noted on the trip was how Candela’s structures were very much integrated into their surroundings and were no longer the standalone structures they used to be when built. At Cuernavaca, trees have been planted all around the front of the chapel, obscuring most views from that side. The other two churches are on busy city blocks, while the Cosmic Rays Pavilion is in the middle of one of the university’s recreational areas. At the Manantiales restaurant, posters cover all the windows and light bulbs pepper the underside of the shell, while the outside is largely obscured by fencing and trees. At the same time, people who use these structures seem unimpressed. For example, the restaurant worker who allowed me to enter Las Manantiales was surprised that I could spend over an hour looking around. Overall, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to personally experience these structures close up.”

Approaching Los Manatiales through the parking lot, January 2016 (photo credit: Dennis Smith)
Los Manantiales restaurant interior; the windows are covered by posters (photo credit: Dennis Smith)
Exterior Church of the Medalla Milagrosa, the power lines seem to form a ruled surface (photo credit Dennis Smith)

Interior Church of the Medalla Milagrosa (photo credit Dennis Smith)
Interior Church of Antonio de las Huertas (photo credit Dennis Smith)
The Chapel of Lomas de Cuernavaca from the parking lot
Panorama of the inside of the Chapel of Lomas de Cuernavaca
The Cosmic Rays Pavilion and recreational areas


Candela Structures Map
Candela Structures in Mexico City mapped onto the subsoil conditions (and thus earthquake risk).

Author: Dennis Smith

Photo credit: Dennis Smith
Illustration: Tim Michiels

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