Mexico City’s modern Central Business District of Santa Fe is as well-known for its impressive shopping malls and creatively-nicknamed skyscrapers—including architectural wonders like “The Pants” and “The Washing Machine”—as it is for its questionable urban design. Developed atop an area used as landfill, it was designed to be a new business hub that would alleviate the traffic congestion and seismic risks in the older, more central business districts of Polanco and Reforma.
Unfortunately, Santa Fe was developed too fast and too successfully. Given its non-central location and lack of access to public transportation like the Mexico City Metro, the area is known for having one of the longest commute times for workers in the city. Additionally, it was developed as a car-centric zone and was initially severely lacking in green space. The shopping mall of Garden Santa Fe is an attempt at solving some of these issues.
Built on the space formerly occupied by a parking lot, Garden Santa Fe boasts 1,600 underground parking spaces as well as space for 90 stores. It’s considered Latin America’s first underground mall, and was developed by the architectural firms Arquitectoma and KMD. Its main feature is that its rooftop is actually a green oasis in the midst of skyscrapers and corporate offices.
The rooftop features three large glass sinkholes, which are actually skylights that let natural light into the subterranean mall. This was installed as part of a plan to have Garden Santa Fe certified as an environmentally sustainable building, as the natural light significantly reduces its reliance on electricity. Built out of tempered glass, the skylights are covered in a special film that keeps UV light out and regulates temperature, further reducing the amount of heating and air conditioning needed.
Of note, one of the lower levels of the mall includes a Royal Bol bowling alley which was inaugurated by Mexico City resident, Nobel Literature Prize-winning Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, in 2013.
Know Before You Go
The easiest way to reach Santa Fe in public transport is to take a bus departing outside the Metro stations of Tacubaya, Miguel Angel de Quevedo, Observatorio, or Balderas. If driving or taking a taxi to the area, it is recommended to avoid the normal commute rush hours of 8 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, as traffic jams are notorious.