Finding Pani

Searching for a house of Mario Pani in Mexico City

Written by Kacie McGeary
Photographed by Luis Garvan

When you picture modernist architecture, images of heavy concrete, blunt lines, and stark uniformity typically come to mind. But there is also a softer, looser expression of the epochal style—one that feels intimate, somehow human. Though lesser known, this more poetic branch of modernism can be traced to Mexican architect Mario Pani.

For Pani, the beauty of architecture was in the details—not just in how buildings looked, but how they felt, and how they could improve the quality of life for those who inhabited them. In this way, Pani’s designs were more than mere structures: They were meticulously planned, self-contained communities made to connect people with people, and people with place.

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Despite greatly influencing the form and layout of Mexico City, however, many of his residential buildings collapsed in earthquakes that struck the capital in the latter half of the 20th century. Because of this, Pani’s apartments are covetable and often difficult to acquire—but with a bit of grit and determination, some can be lucky enough to find one. Or, in Eugenia Braniff’s case, three. 

Born and raised in the arts community of Mexico City, Eugenia grew up surrounded by Pani’s work. Her maternal grandparents were close with Mathias Goeritz, a muralist who regularly worked with the Pani, and her paternal grandparents were good friends with the architect himself, having lived in one of his condos beside Club de Yates de Acapulco, which he also designed.

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Looking back on the years that Eugenia has not only spent living in her dream apartment but getting there, she is thankful that she was able to find a place that felt so much like home—let alone three. “After living in Pani’s apartments, I feel like I live differently,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone. “And I think everyone who’s lived in his buildings feels that—they make you feel like you’re a part of a nice, beautiful community, within the madness of Mexico City.”

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