In the aftermath of the unrealized Placa Roja project, conceived in 1981 for the Monterrey-based chemical manufacturer Cydsa as part of the Ruta del Trabajo monument series, the Barragán + Ferrera office was approached by the Monterrey Chamber of Commerce (Canaco) to design a work in celebration of its 1983 centennial anniversary.
The prior commission had been under discussion as early as July 1981, and the switch from Cydsa to Canaco as the formal client in mid November 1982 presented the opportunity to adapt and execute the previous design in a new context.
The ensuing Faro del Comercio design, which was finalized in November 1982, consists of a hollow tower made of reinforced concrete, reaching a height of nearly seventy metres. One of the tower’s narrow sides is left open to accommodate a service ladder leading to a platform at the top of the landmark. Laser lights installed on this platform can project highly visible beams into the night sky. The phosphorescent orange colour of the landmark is the same hue that was originally specified for the Placa Roja project.
The chosen site for the monument was the Macroplaza, also known as Gran Plaza. Located in Monterrey’s city centre, this large public space was created between 1979 and 1984 by demolishing forty street blocks and the historical Plaza Zaragoza. Over one kilometre long, the rectangular plaza is lined on both sides by Monterrey’s major public buildings. Various promotional leaflets from the time – a few copies of which remain in the Barragán Archives – document the intended placement of the newly designed landmark in the area resulting from this wide-scale urban transformation. Several of them contain annotations by Barragán + Ferrera specifying the tower’s orientation with greater precision.
The Faro del Comercio is asymmetrically positioned in the southeast section of the Macroplaza, in alignment with the Monterrey Casino and the orthogonal boundaries of the square. Earlier positioning studies explored the idea of placing the landmark further south, opposite the seventeenth-century cathedral, and complementing it with a square or L-shaped water basin. As the configuration of the Macroplaza progressively became more clearly defined, the Faro del Comercio was shifted to its final position.
The project was officially approved on 16 November 1982 and proceeded at a rapid pace. The cornerstone-laying ceremony took place in January 1983. During the construction phase, Barragán + Ferrera turned their attention to the space immediately surrounding the tower, known as the Plaza del Comercio. The architects prepared a detailed proposal for the paving, including a fountain with a twenty-one-metre square basin featuring a central water jet. Ultimately, only the fountain was realized, along with diamond-shaped flowerbeds and a tall iron fence designed between June 1983 and February 1984, which encloses the monument.
The Faro del Comercio is conceived to be visible from a great distance. Its conceptual approach recalls the Torres de Satélite and Torre de Fuego. However, in contrast to these earlier projects, the new landmark’s location in the city centre – away from busy thoroughfares – places it more in the tradition of city towers, engaging in a dialogue with the immediate surroundings. The construction of the Macroplaza radically altered and expanded the scale of the urban fabric, and the Faro del Comercio’s brilliant hue and distinctive presence are commensurate with its monumental proportions. Visual balance is achieved in relation to the nearby cathedral and the scenic backdrop of the Sierra Madre mountains.
Mexican president Miguel de la Madrid inaugurated the Faro del Comercio on 7 December 1984. Its laser beams, first projected into the sky on 4 January 1985, add a spectacular dimension to a monument that celebrates Monterrey’s industrial power and economic influence. A considerable amount of media attention followed the inauguration, documenting the local community’s appraisal of the landmark. Due to its vast popularity, the Faro del Comercio soon became an iconic image that was widely used for all manner of purposes. In 2001, the country of Mexico classified the landmark as a National Artistic Monument.