The story behind the “merger” between Torre Reforma and a 20th century mansion

This is what the Torre Reforma and the 20th century mansion look like together on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma. (CNN Spanish) — The pink quarry mansion located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma #483, in the Cuauhtémoc neighborhood of Mexico City, is less than a decade away from turning 100 years old. Its history, however, could have ended suddenly with the construction of the Torre Reforma, an imposing skyscraper 246 meters high, if it had not been for the idea that arose one morning in 2008. That year, the architect Benjamín Romano, commissioned of the work of Torre Reforma together with his LBR&A office, he was invited by the future owners of the property to visit the land and in general the whole house, whose origin dates back to 1929. The origin of the pink quarry house dates from 1929 and It is located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma, at the foot of Torre Reforma. The owners, who still hadn’t decided to buy the house but eventually did, wanted to know Romano’s opinion about the place and, in particular, about a very particular point: the permanence of the house at the time of another construction. “(The one who was going to be the owner) told me: ‘What do we do to this house?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll move it. Don’t lose ground, don’t miss the opportunity.’ And, well, he listened to me and believed in me, ”says the architect of Torre Reforma in an interview with CNN. When the new owners bought it, the mansion was a bar at night, so Romano and a group of professionals visited it in the mornings to discuss how it could be moved. “Dr. Roberto Meli, maestro Enrique Santoyo, Rodolfo Valles and I used to meet at the house, which at that time, in 2008, was a fun place, a bar. The owners managed to lend us the club in the mornings when there was no night event”, says the architect Benjamín Romano. On one of those mornings, the winning idea was born. There were several proposals, including putting the house in a cage to move it, but Romano came up with something simpler, thanks to those who drank in the club the night before. “We had so many ideas. I remember that Master Santoyo proposed handling a series of micropiles to put some rails to move it. I also remember that there was the idea of ​​putting her in a cage and moving her with a crane. (In the bar), there was a bar with trays and empty glasses from the previous day. I told Roberto Meli: ‘Roberto, that’s what we have to do. We have to put a tray on it and, since the waiter takes away the glasses full of drinks, we’re going to take the house with us,’” he explains. Meli, a doctor of engineering and researcher emeritus at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), turned around and replied to Romano: “I think it’s a very good idea.” The $800,000 movement La Torre Reforma is an imposing 246-meter-high skyscraper that was completed in 2016. Although talks to move the mansion began in 2008, work actually began in 2012, in part because the authorities did not believe that Romano’s idea could be carried out and therefore, they did not grant the permission that was required. “They always gave us long and asked us for things that we fulfilled. Every (time) that we fulfilled them, they asked for something else. I remember that once we told them: ‘If you want I’ll give you a performance bond to show you that I don’t intend to throw it away’. Because their word was: ‘And if you throw it away later? And if you drop it?’ architect of Torre Reforma. Roman’s idea or, in a nutshell, it consisted of encapsulating the original foundation of the house with a concrete tray and then moving the entire house. Previously, Romano indicates, the semi-basement of the house had to be demolished, because without it no movement could be carried out. The demolition of the semi-basement was carried out and on February 14, 2012, the architect recalls, the movement of the mansion began. The calculations were well defined: the house had to be moved 18 meters to the north of Mexico City to put under it some ‘Milan walls’ that would delimit the basements where the Torre Reforma parking lots would be located; later a second movement (another 18 meters) would be made to return the house to its original position. The estimate was 3 hours for the first move, then a few weeks to put up the walls and finally another 3 hours to return the house to its place. But it didn’t happen exactly that way. On the first move, the architect’s team encountered an obstacle that increased the time from 3 to 11 hours. Although it was finally achieved, the complexity of the idea was obvious, so much so that even Romano’s friends bet among themselves if it was going to be achieved or not. “The only thing that worried me was that, since we had the stumble (the obstacle) on the first leg, I was doing my friends a favor who bet (against). But on the way back there was no longer that stumble, ”he recalls. After six weeks of putting up walls and with no obstacles on the way back, the house returned to its original site in 3 hours, just as initially planned. Romano isn’t sure how much money he spent to build the concrete tray that helped move the house. What there is is an estimate: US$800,000 to bring the idea to fruition. “If you ask me how much it cost to move the house, I say it was very cheap: US$800,000. Why do I say it was very cheap? Because if I discount what I would have spent on the slab (for the foundation of the skyscraper), and if I discount that the house is supported by the retaining walls of the building itself, then I consider the US$ 800,000”, he mentions . This means that the Torre Reforma, with or without a house in between, would have needed the materials that were used to make the displacement; For this reason, Romano does not take into account the cost of said materials to move the house, but only what he invested to buy the land under the house. “With US$ 800,000 we acquired the subsoil of these square meters to make parking in 9 basements. So I think it’s very cheap. I know it sounds like a lot of money, but it’s not much”, he points out. Preserving history and architecture After the displacement, the rest was architectural history: the Torre Reforma, complete with its 246 meters of height and 57 levels, was completed in November 2016 at a total cost of US$130 million. It has won various national and international awards, including the International Highrise Award 2018 as ‘The best skyscraper in the world’. The building stands out thanks to the immense concrete walls on which it stands; its sustainable design that saves up to 30% in water and energy; its robotic parking spaces, in addition to those found in the basements; its natural ventilation (necessary in times of covid-19, Romano highlights) and its resistance to earthquakes in the Mexican capital. In addition to what the Torre Reforma represents, the architect Benjamín Romano likes to think about the preservation of the history that they achieved by leaving the mansion standing, although he does not necessarily like what this 20th-century house represents. “What he has is history. If you see the house, it’s not a big joke, right? Well, in my opinion. What this house is talking about is the opulence of the Porfiriato. Each one made their bleeding, threw the house out the window, which is the case here because it is all lined with quarry”, he said. This is what the 20th century mansion looks like inside the Torre Reforma. Preserving the mansion (where a MacStore is now located) has an even greater value due to its historical relevance: it is listed as a construction of artistic value by the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) and of heritage value by the Ministry of Development. Urban and Housing (Seduvi) of Mexico City. “I had the opportunity to go to Japan, to Tokyo specifically, and I went outside of Tokyo. There is a lot of old architecture there and in Tokyo there is none. Then, reflecting with some architect friends on the trip, we realized that in Tokyo there is no architecture because wars have devastated it. I got the impression, when we were there, that it is a city with no urban or architectural history, and I think it is a good idea to preserve the architecture. Hopefully more and more can be done”, concludes Romano.