Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, 94; modernist architect who created Mexican landmarks

Pedro Ramirez Vazquez designed some of Mexico’s most important modernist structures, including the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, opened in 1964.
Alexandre Meneghini/Associated Press
Pedro Ramirez Vazquez designed some of Mexico’s most important modernist structures, including the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, opened in 1964.

NEW YORK — Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, the architect who led many of Mexico’s landmark modernist construction projects of the mid-20th century, including museums, the country’s largest sports stadium and the shrine that attracts its most important religious pilgrimage, died Tuesday, his 94th birthday, in Mexico City.

His death was announced by Mexico’s National Arts Council.

Over six decades in which much of Mexico evolved from a mostly peasant society into a modern industrial state, Mr. Ramirez and his collaborators built monuments to Mexican culture, including the National Museum of Anthropology, the Azteca soccer stadium, the Legislative Palace, and the Basilica of Guadalupe, all in Mexico City. Millions of Mexican Roman Catholic pilgrims converge on the basilica each spring.


Mr. Ramirez designed the national headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico from 1929 through 2000 and whose all-powerful presidents commissioned most of his projects. He built many government structures, including the Foreign and Labor Ministries, and served in government himself, as secretary of human settlements and public works from 1977 to 1982.

Alan Riding/Reuters/file 1976
Mr. Ramirez was born during the waning years of the Mexican Revolution.
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Outside Mexico he was known for designing the Mexican pavilions at several World’s Fairs, including the one that opened in 1964 in New York.

His public profile rose, and was marred, four years later when he led the organizing committee of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, which he orchestrated as a showcase of modernization and the government’s posture as a nonaligned power during the Cold War.

An Army massacre of scores of antigovernment protesters days before the games provoked an international outcry, and though there is no evidence that he helped organize the violence, as president of the Olympics committee he defended the crackdown and hewed to government propaganda in asserting that international journalists had exaggerated the bloodletting.

As an architect, Mr. Ramirez left his mark less as a master designer than as a bureaucratically powerful technocrat.


‘’He knew how to maximize windows of opportunity not only to produce structures but to expand the definition of what an architect is and does,’’ Luis M. Castaneda, a professor of art history at Syracuse University, said in a 2012 interview.

In a 1985 interview with the news magazine Proceso, Mr. Ramirez recalled how he had been put in charge of some of those projects. At a literary gathering at midcentury he had met a rising politician, Adolfo Lopez Mateos, and they became friends. In 1952, Lopez Mateos became secretary of labor and commissioned Mr. Ramirez, without competitive bidding, to build a new Labor Ministry headquarters, as well as a new residence for Lopez Mateos himself. The two conversed one day during a pause in that construction.

‘‘The aspiration of an architect in the past was to build a cathedral; what is it today?’’ Mr. Ramirez, then in his early 30s, recalled being asked.

‘‘An archaeology museum,’’ the young architect answered. After Lopez Mateos became president in 1958, he announced plans for a spectacular new museum and put Mr. Ramirez in charge.