Photos: Fotos En Concreto

“We’ve seen textures done before but never to this level of quality and craftsmanship.”

Wanda Lau


Retail Structures

Paseo Altozano

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To bring down the scale of a 1.45 million ft2 (135,000 m2) shopping mall, designers used a variety of colors and finishes on more than 2,500 architectural precast concrete panels. The design created a series of independent-looking buildings within the long structure while maintaining the high quality and uniformity of a single construction system.

The key challenge came in devising all of the finishes and replicating the desired slate look. The precaster used a variety of forming techniques and aggregate mixtures, as well as several finishing options (acid etching, chiseled hammered, polished, and stained).

The desired slate finish was achieved with rubber molds cast from concrete flooring pieces discarded from the precaster’s plant. The resulting shapes were manually tinted with penetrating acid-based stains of various colors in every slate block. Replicating slate with formliners provided considerable savings over using natural materials.

“We selected this project because of the quality and craftsmanship in replicating the stone finish, which is unbelievable,” says Wanda Lau, a member of the buildings awards jury. “The innovation behind the precast is quite amazing. We’ve seen textures done before but never to this level of quality and craftsmanship. It shows that precast can be a very viable alternative to much more expensive, much more energy-intensive finish materials.”

Six continuous months of intensive work, with about 210 panels erected per week, were required to complete the erection. On each facade, precast concrete elements were alternated across the large extended surfaces to create visually attractive and original areas within the larger complex. Components included a large number of column covers.

The smooth casting procedure and rapid erection process allowed the project to be completed ahead of schedule. Casting the pieces at the plant ensured a clean working environment at the site and contributed to minimizing pollution in the surrounding rural areas.

Use of concrete in this area of Mexico has been low due to misconceptions about its capabilities to provide interesting and intriguing designs, according to the designer. The project serves as an inspiration to other owners and designers to expand their view.

 “We were really drawn to the use of precast to portray a variety of natural building materials,” says Bob Powers, a member of the buildings awards jury. “The use of color and special formliners allowed the precast to create a very realistic look of natural slate and granite. They allowed the architect to achieve the aesthetic look of natural stone.”

Location: Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
Owner: Grupo FAME, Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
Architect: Taller Único de Arquitectos, Mexico City, Mexico,
Engineer: Postensados y Diseños Estructurales, Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City, Mexico
Contractor: Grupo Altozano, Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
Precaster: PRETECSA, Atizapán de Zaragoza, Estado de México,
Project size: 1.45 million ft2 (135,000 m2)
Project cost: $150 million