(Note the Porfirato buildings at the far right, a hint of the past.)
I later found out that it was called the Glorieta de Insurgentes, a huge roundabout built in the 1960's at the edge of the Zona Rosa, right in the heart of Mexico City. In the pit below the traffic circle is the entrance to the Metro Insurgentes and one of the city's busiest bus stops. It's estimated that a million people a day pass through the Glorieta.
The glory days of the Glorieta--if there were any--have passed. It's a big architectural wart now, surrounded by porn video stalls, a school that offers free haircuts, a shop selling sexy disco outfits, a clinic where you can see a doctor for 25 pesos. There are some interesting Mayan style relief tiles at the metro entrance, but that's about the only attractive thing there is. In spite of it all, the place has a compelling energy I've always loved, especially as the sun sets and street lights add their disorienting effect.
This plaza has lots of potential, but it falls short of being a truly great, glitzy urban space like New York's Times Square, London's Picadilly Circus, or Tokyo's Ginza. There's not enough beauty to make it really good, and not enough ugly to make it really 'bad' (in the Michael Jackson sense).
The city keeps trying to eliminate billboards, but I think the place needs more of them, not less, along with some flashing neon and strobe lights, maybe a fountain or two, or a ferris wheel like the one in downtown Osaka.
We now have bike paths, pedestrianized streets, a projected 'high-line' elevated park. Thomas Glassford, an American artist who lives here, recently completed a project in Tlatelolco, covering an entire building in a mesh of neon lights. Mexico City is putting a lot of energy into giving itself a modern, user-friendly, makeover. It's a great time to be living here.
A new proposal is afloat to transform the Glorieta de Insurgentes. The idea is to turn it into a massive art gallery, an open-air museum, by having young artists integrate paintings, sculpture and photography into the commercial mayhem. The photo below is a digital creation of one possibility. The article
I found (see link) seems fairly vague about how all this will happen, but it's a good start. Are you listening Carlos Slim?
Article in Spanish about the Glorieta http://www.gatopardo.com/detalleBlog.php?id=155