THE DESIGN FLOW

Mexico 2014 | REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Javier Sordo Madaleno, CEO of Grupo Sordo Madaleno, on inspirations, designing the right shopping centers, and Mexico's architectural identity.

What has influenced you the most in your career?

My father has been my main source of inspiration in my career; another architect who has been very important is Luis Barragán. He has influenced me from the beginning in terms of simplicity. Today, my two sons are also a source of inspiration. They are in architecture now and are already here working with me. It is always the younger generation that brings in new ideas, and so you are always learning. It is important to have them here also because they are the only ones that tell you the truth.

How has the family business evolved in recent years?

Overall, 2013 was one of the best years in the history of the company. Since 1937, there hasn't been a year that we designed more projects than in 2013, while 2014 also looks outstanding. We have lined up some of the most interesting projects we've ever taken on. We are working a lot in Monterrey, Guadalajara, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and in other cities around the country. We feel that our situation has been exceptional. Although the economy is still not flying, everybody has high expectations for what is coming next.

“Before, shopping centers were just consumption traps, but not they are completely different in terms of their inspiration."

Could you tell us more about the performance of these projects in the real estate area?

We just opened Antea Lifestyle Center in Queretaro. Antea is the largest shopping center in Latin America, and it is one of the best designs that we have created. It has around 78,000 sqm of retail space. Up to today, we have opened around 60% of the shopping center. What is fantastic news for us is that we currently have around 10,000 cars pulling in every day on average—and it is not yet fully open. This means we are turning every parking space that we have in the shopping center 2.5 times, with only 60% of the retail space opened. We estimate that we will receive around 12 million people a year when fully open. We are also opening a fantastic shopping center in Veracruz, in front of the ocean with a beach front near the convention center in the city. Also, in Mexico City, we have started the construction of Picacho Lifestyle Center, which is a project like Antara Polanco but in the south of the city. We think that this project will revolutionize retail in Mexico; we have the most important brands and it has around 120,000 sqm of leasable area. There will also be four office towers at around 20,000 sqm each. We are very proud of the design. At this point in time, we are finishing El Toreo, which is a shopping center that is on the border of Mexico City and the state of Mexico. It is fantastic to work with some clients as designers, and we are very proud to include some new concepts in El Toreo. We have designed a park on top of the center of about 6,000 sqm. This will change the way people view greenery in shopping centers. It has a large-scale roof, which is going to be one of the biggestin Mexico.

What is the significance of these new concepts?

It is not only about architecture, but the whole experience. Before, shopping centers were just consumption traps, but not they are completely different in terms of their inspiration. Today, they can be a place where people would like to be, spend time, dine, shop, and walk. I wanted to create a spot that I would love to go and spend time. Since Antara Polanco, we have put together a whole different experience. We are also thinking of new ways of doing cinemas. We want to make cinemas with an open screen within the compound. The next trend that will be important is art in the retail space. It is more and more difficult to get people into cultural spaces because people enjoy the idea of shopping more. This way, we can get the best of both worlds—shopping and art.

Is this new concept an answer to a growing need in Mexico, or are you starting a new trend?

I think we respond to what the people are thinking and how they feel. People travel much more now, so they understand more. Every day the customer is becoming more sophisticated and relaxed. People need a relaxed atmosphere.

You recently merged with the Spanish group Ortiz. How has that experience been?

It's been great because we have encountered a partner that is really capable, has a lot of technology, and understands perfectly the Mexican way of doing things. We feel extremely comfortable with Ortiz. We were very successful with the shopping center in Queretaro. We finished it on budget and in time, which is always a challenge. We have made our partners understand the difference; you can really control the pricing and get good results.

What is Mexico's architectural identity?

Mexico has a very large border with the US, but it has always tried to keep its identity. I think that the country has its own traditions. We have many European roots; we have a mixture that has lead it to become one of the few countries that has its own architectural identity. In most of the countries in Europe, Canada, or the US, you cannot tell if a building was designed by a Frenchman or and Englishman. I think that having this fusion of cultures in Mexico has created a different language in architecture.

What are the opportunities?

In the future I believe that technology will revolutionize architecture. We will be changing and generating new experiences. The important thing is to be open to change. Mexico has a huge opportunity today due to all the new reforms. The energy reform will especially be a great success for the country.

Are you thinking about going international?

We are definitely looking to develop an idea in Spain. We are also looking at the US. The problem we have now is that we have so many projects here in Mexico that we haven't had time to go elsewhere. But, of course, we are always eager and we would like to go forward and expand internationally.

© The Business Year - June 2014