Major Works

Bacardí Rum Factory

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The impetus for Félix Candela’s Bacardí Rum Factory was Minoru Yamasaki’s and Anton Tedesko’s 1956 Lambert-St. Louis Airport Terminal. It consisted of three cylindrical groined vaults with stiffening arches along the groins and stiffening ribs at the edges.1 In an interview, Candela recalled that he first saw the structure in a magazine and told himself, “I’m going to do it.”2 Candela found the overall form of the St. Louis Airport Terminal appealing but thought that the ribs along the groins were too heavy. Determined to use the next opportunity that he had “to demonstrate that [the St. Louis airport terminal] could be done in a simple, more elegant form,”3 he found that opportunity with the Bacardí Rum Factory in Cuautitlán, Mexico, which Candela completed in 1960.

The factory roof consisted of three adjacent hyperbolic paraboloid groined vaults 4 cm. (1.6 in.) thick and 26 m. (85.3 ft.) square in plan with 2.5 m. (27.9 ft.) overhangs on each side.4 Skylights fill the voids between adjacent shells and enclose the structure but provide no support for the shell roof.5

Bacardí’s shell is not in direct contact with the footings, but instead each of the four corners is supported on a leg that transfers the loads from the shells to the footings which in turn place the vertical weight on the ground. Steel ties connect the footings to carry the horizontal forces. The groin stiffeners are completely hidden from inside view and are essentially invisible from the outside. They are V-beams, which Candela used in all his groined vaults. Additionally the edge stiffeners are set back from the edge, allowing for the thinness of the shell to be fully expressed. The arches are located directly above the glass walls to ensure that in the case of unexpected wind loadings the shell is stiff enough that it does not deflect into the glass. Similarly, stiffening ribs frame the skylights that are fitted between adjacent shells.6

Construction photos of Bacardí reveal that all three vaults were built at the same time without form reuse. Nevertheless, Candela achieved economy through the choice of the hyperbolic paraboloid form, which lends itself to the use of straight formwork. Even though the stresses are so small in the shell that steel reinforcement is not required for strength, steel was used for construction reasons––to hold the wet concrete in place on steep surfaces––and to address other practical issues such as temperature effects.

The original plan anticipated an expansion of up to nine vaults, and Candela built the foundations for such a design. In 1971 a second row of three hyperbolic paraboloid groined vaults, identical to the original, was added.7 By then Candela had left Cubiertas Ala, and the construction of the expansion was under the supervision of his brother Antonio and Juan Antonio Tonda.8


1. Since its completion in 1956, a fourth vault has been added.
2. G. Garay, Proyecto de Historia Oral de la Ciudad de Mexico: Testimonios de sus Arquitectos (1940–1990), Entrevistas Arquitecto Félix Candela (Mexico, August 1994): third interview, 15; trans. Maria Garlock.
3. Félix Candela’s autobiography; written in the 1990s, it remained unfinished and was never published. A copy of the autobiography was obtained courtesy of Mrs. Dorothy Candela and is housed in the Maillart Archives, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University; trans. Maria Garlock.
4. Drawing obtained courtesy of Mrs. Dorothy Candela and is housed in the Maillart Archives, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University
5. F. Candela, “Planta embotelladora Bacardí en Mexico,” Nuestra Arquitectura 376 (March 1961): 43.
6. J. A. Tonda, “Bovedas de Cascaron para la Planta de Bacardí en Mexico,” Revista IMCYC 10, no. 60 (January–February 1973): 76.
7. M. Seguí, Félix Candela and Emilio Pérez Piñero: An Imaginary Dialogue. Competition for the Anoeta Velodrome (Madrid, 2004).
8. Tonda, “Bovedas de Cascaron,” 69. According to J. A. Tonda, Candela left Cubiertas Ala in 1969: Félix Candela, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (Mexico, 2000), 18.