You hurry in and hurry out of the elevator when you get off your designated floor lest one or more of their cables were to snap. On your left is unlit deep dark bowling alley like narrow passage. The corridor on your right is all lit up. The walls are plastered smooth and painted in pleasant colors. There are doors on the either side with bright light pouring through. Walls in between the doors are adorned with paintings – most of them large originals of the illustrations that brighten up the writing within the pages of the magazine. You hear the cacophony of voices and the hustle of the humans presence from behind the doors. These are the Playboy offices in the Aztec capital of Mexico City.
If brought in blind folded and walked directly into one of the offices, you never would imagine the exterior of the building being anything other than one of the modern glass fronted structures of the time. Sitting in our publisher Irina (Schwartzman)’s office what you see are the angled walls covered with multiple of original paintings and the clear glass panels that form the outer walls, overlooking the trees and the buildings outside in this residential neighborhood of Colonia Nápoles. Irina’s glass top desk and the chairs around make it for the setting of one of the most modern offices providing a very pleasant work environment. Even though we are only on the second floor of the building, what you see outside those glass walls is the panoramic view of this sprawling mega city, which is mostly covered in the dense smog. So prevalent is the smog that someone with a sense of humor is marketing a Mexican flag covered sealed beverage can “containing” aire de Mexico sin smog – the Mexican air without smog. But the view you get from Irina’s office is more like the romanticized dusty urban landscape reminiscence of the hazy dreamy images of David Hamilton’s pubescent maidens.
This is the late Eighties. The building was originally meant to be a fifty stories high Hotel de Mexico. The man often referred to be the protégé of Pancho Villa, it was to be the dream tower of the eccentric entrepreneur Manuel Suarez y Suarez, construction for which began in 1962 and was meant to be completed before the country’s 1968 Summer Olympics to provide accommodations for the athletes from around the world. It was to be just like Mexico’s hosting of the Olympics, meant to showcase the country as becoming a part of the modern world, coming true of an immigrant dream that this Spaniard wanted for his adopted country.
Unfortunately, Don Manuel as he was universally called, ran out of the money, and the construction of his dream project had to be halted. Even though the main tower was completed in 1972, it remained an unfinished skeleton for twenty more years. However, also completed and inaugurated was the integral part of this massive undertaking, Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros. In 1980, the project was re-imagined as an international business center. Don Manuel blessed the idea, but before it could be materialized, he died in 1988, while still leaving the unfinished tower to its own fate. But in 1992, the remodeling began partially with the public funds and the completed tower finally opened in 1995 as Mexico’s World Trade Center and eventually went on to become the administrative head quarters for NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).