Metropolis: A New Home for Baseball in Mexico City
Published on metropolismag.com, August 2019
Mexico’s long-standing love affair with the pastime of baseball has manifested as an innovative and visually dramatic ballpark in Mexico City designed by architects Francisco Gonzalez Pulido (FGP Atelier)and Alonso de Garay (Taller ADG). Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú opened to much fanfare this March, at the start of baseball season, as the new home for AAA Minor League Baseball team Diablos Rojos del México. The inaugural games were sold out—impressive considering the venue hosts up to 21,000 spectators—and drew notable figures and national heroes including the country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador; the celebrated Mexican boxer Julio César Chávez; and, naturally, the team’s owner, for whom the stadium is named.
The stadium is a display of national pride as well, with a design and layout that hint at the country’s long history. “The procession from the stadium grounds into the ballpark alludes to climbing an ancient Mesoamerican temple,” explains Gonzalez Pulido. “As the spectators approach the grand entrance, they encounter six truncated pyramids.” Batten-like precast concrete panels that integrate volcanic rock clad the latter, evoking the original dark tones of the nearby ancient pyramids. Additionally, the volumes’ striking slatted design filters incoming sunlight while facilitating fresh air ventilation—both of which are efforts that contribute to the project’s sustainability goals. And a ring just inside the entrance connects all seating sections while keeping sightlines open toward the field, which in turn maximizes sunlight and air for every seating area.
Whereas pre-Hispanic architecture inspired the stadium’s the lower levels, the roof is a statement on contemporary innovation and engineering. Right off the bat—no pun intended—visitors will notice that, unlike the typical rounded-corner roofs that outline most baseball diamonds, this stadium’s canopy is angular, faceted, and dynamic, forming a shape that—fittingly—recalls a devil’s pitchfork. It appears to float, but it’s actually mounted onto the truncated pyramid roofs via trusses and pin connections. Achieving such a structure in a seismic zone with difficult soil conditions proved challenging, but the architects pulled off the feat by tweaking the weight of each roof module and utilizing the largest crane in the world to assemble them. Its PTFE textile material reduces some structural weight, provides shelter and shade, and draws the eye with its translucence.
More than just presenting a handsome backdrop for baseball games, the stadium functions as a center for culture, community, and commerce. “Successful spaces must encourage strong social engagement, incorporate Mexican traditions, and respect existing natural conditions,” says Gonzalez Pulido. Situated within the city’s Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City park—home of the 1968 Summer Olympic Games—the project reclaims underutilized land in a relatively poor neighborhood. With a new Formula One racetrack and plenty of open spaces, the park has the potential to draw visitors of every background—including the affluent kind.
The stadium has already created jobs and vendor opportunities for locals, and plans are in place to develop a weekend market for additional vendors and makers to sell their wares. Meanwhile, the project’s second phase will see the addition of an urban farm and batting cages for children. “Open space is as important as the built space,” adds Gonzalez Pulido, “a prominent architectural feature within Mexican culture.”