Monday, May 25, 2015


FRANCISCO J. SERRANO (1900-1982) was a civil engineer and architect whose Art Deco and modernist buildings grace Colonia Condesa and other areas of Mexico City. He is part of an architectural dynasty.

His father, J. Francisco Serrano, designed several notable buildings in the city, such as the Edificio La Esmeralda (1892) and the Edificio Paris (1907) in the Centro Histórico.

His son, Francisco Serrano, ( is best known for his design of Terminal 2 of the Mexico City airport and the office buidling known as 'Los Pantelones'.

                                                  Edificio Jardines, Amsterdam 285, at Sonora

The second Serrano, Francisco J., is probably best known as the architect of the swanky Edificio Basurto in Condesa, but as you wander around the colonia, you'll notice that many of the best Art Deco buildings are his. An early work, the fanciful Edifico Jardines at the corner of Sonora and Amsterdam (across from Starbucks) features multiple balconies, terraces and mini-lighthouses on top. The streamline house at the corner of Michoacán and Avenida Mexico looks like a set for a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie.

Several of his houses have been altered or covered over with commercial signage, or have disappeared behind giant trees. But he undoubtably left the mark of his creative vision on Mexico City. Surprisingly, there is no monograph about him.


                                           Avenida Amsterdam, corner of Michoacán

Huichapan 20

Amsterdam 285

                                                                Pasaje Polanco

Here is a list of buildings I've been able to attribue to him:

Laredo 5, 1933
Amsterdam 110, 1931
Laredo 22 (externsively remodelled), 1942
El Plaza Condesa (Parque España),1946
Edificio Casa Jardines, Amsterdam 285, 1928-30
Edificio Basurto, 1942-45
Nuevo León 68, 1952
Michoacán 43, 1935
Avenida Mexico 75, 1934
Nuevo León 120, 1936
Campeche 302, 1932
Amsterdam 206, 1935
Avenida Mexico 123, 1932
Chilpancingo 39, 1946
Chilpancingo 46, 1931
Parque España 49
Parque España 59
Huichapan 20

Edificio Rio de Janiero, Orizaba and Durango, Roma (ground floor remodel)
Edificio Anahuac, Queretaro 109, Colonia Roma (1932)
Edificio Acro, Insurgentes at Quintana Roo, 1937
Edificio Glorieta, Insurgentes at Chilpancingo, 1938

Pasaje Polanco, c. 1938
Emilio Castelar 6
Emilio Castelar 24
E.C. and Galileo, corner house
Arquimedes and Newton, corner house
Newton and Aristoteles
Conjunto San Carlos, Moliere, Seneca and Masaryk

Cine Teresa

Faculty of Engineering, UNAM (collaboration), c. 1954
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Church, Santa María de la Ribera

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake--La Pastelería Ideal

The following is an excerpt from the latest edition of 'Mexico City: and Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler', available on Amazon (click HERE) or, in Mexico City, at Under the Volcano Books in Colonia Roma (click HERE).

The aroma gets you about fifty feet from the door, a warm
mixture of sugar and butter combining with the exhaust
fumes from nearby Eje Central. As you pass through the
doors of La Pastelería Ideal you enter a life-size version of
Candyland. Thousands of sugary cakes, muffins, tarts, strudels,
danish, biscuits, croissants, éclairs, cream puffs, donuts,
cupcakes and brioche are spread out before you; more than
300 varieties. And that’s not including the cookies (I counted
almost 70 different kinds).
A beloved institution known to generations of Mexicans, it
was founded by Spanish immigrant Don Adolfo Fernández
Cetina in 1927. He came to Mexico City in 1913 at the age of
17 to work with a cousin in his small bakery business. Today
there are three locations in the city with more than 250
employees. The ovens are going 24 hours a day, seven days
a week.
Need a cake to feed 1600? No problem. You could bake it at
home (all you need is 100 kilos of flour, 400 eggs, 40 kilos
of butter, and a 10-foot ladder to reach the top), or head
upstairs to Ideal’s  second floor cake showroom. You’ll
see hundreds of cakes of all sizes, shapes and colors—the
biggest, with nine layers, requires three workers to construct.
Decorations might include a plastic lucha libre doll,
ice cream cones, or even a tiny ballerina twirling above a
bubbling fountain with twinkling lights.
There are cakes for weddings, quinceañeras (a girl’s 15th
birthday), birthdays, baptisms, and graduations. Ideal has
provided cakes for TV and movie stars as well as for four
Mexican presidents.
Are the cakes on display real? Furtive finger marks in the
frosting certainly suggested they might be. It turns out the
frosting is real—egg whites and sugar—but the cake itself
is Styrofoam. “They last for years, but they’ll get dirty, so we
replace them every month or so,” an employee told me.

How to shop in a Mexican bakery:
Pick up one of the metal trays and a pair of tongs and help
yourself. At Ideal, go to the counter in the back of the store where you will be given a ticket with the price written on it. Pay at the caja, then go back to the counter where your wrapped pastries await you.  

               Pasteleria Ideal, Calle 16 de Septiembre 18,
                        is open from 6 am to 10 pm daily.