MUSEUM OF ARCHITECTURE IN MEXICO CITY or The doubts of Ricardo Legorreta
1. Precedent: MEXICAN MODERNISMS
In 2010 PRODUCTORA worked with Jose Castillo, Alejandro Hernandez and Fernanda Canales on the exhibition, ‘Mexican Modernism’ (shown at the BOZAR, Brussels, Belgium). The research for this exhibition involved many visits to private and public archives, offices and private residences of architects and photographers. Through these visits, the urgency of preserving collections and archives of a generation of modernists became clear. Some of the archives are in the hands of spouses, families of partners that continue the architectural practice, and are in pretty bad shape. Luckily the scholar Lourdes Cruz has started the initiative of AAM (Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos or Archive of Mexican Architects) at the UNAM that preserves some the archives of 16 of Mexico’s most relevant architects (Including Abraham Zabludovsky, Augusto H. Alvárez, Augusto Pérez Palacios, Enrique de la Mora , Félix Candela, José Villagrán García , Mario Pani, amongst others...). The AAM’s resources are however very limited. It is also important to note that the whole legacy of Luis Barragan, the only ever Mexican architect to win a Pritzker prize, is in hands of a foreign foundation (the Barragan Foundation in Switzerland, supported by Vitra). The right on his architecture where sold in 1996 to the Swiss Foundation in order to have the financial resources to maintain his studio and residence. To avoid further loss of valuable information or sell-outs to external buyers, it is urgent that a new institution is capable of preserving the rich architectural legacy of Mexico.
2. Precedent: LEGORETTA – the construction of an identity
In 1989 Ricardo Legorreta published a first book on his work. This first compilation written by Louise Noelle, came out almost 29 years after he started his own practice (in 1960, in association with Noe Castro and Carlos Vargas). This book presents a mature architect completely engaged with the idea of a ‘critical regionalism’ (Frampton) and thereby neglects some of his earlier compelling ‘modernist’ pieces that can be read as a continuation of the work he did at the office of modernist architect Jose Villagran. Of these earlier works, especially the Celanese office building (1966-68) deserve some special attention. Other works are represented in a very partial way: from the Automex Factory (Lerma, 1963) actually only his collaboration with Mathias Goeritz for the sculptural water towers is highlighted. I would like to use this deliberately distorted self-portrayal of Ricardo Legorreta as the architect of a critical regionalism and the omission of his earlier modernist work, as an interesting example to show how he reading of modernism and postmodernism in Mexico has been has been simply defined by the architects-authors themselves. The lack of non- autobiographical texts or books, and the lack of a critical apparatus are of course the main reasons for this. I believe that a renewed reading of the early years of Legorreta (1960- 1989) can shed a new light o that period of work as a period of doubts, but also as a period in which Ricardo Legorreta designed his most powerful buildings.
These thoughts are the background for the development of a project for an architecture Museum and Archives for Mexican Architecture on an urban site in Mexico City. Students will have to analyze the possible content of the museum, study precedents, formulate a concept and elaborate on a proposal for a museum and archival space in Mexico City. The outcome of the project will be an architecture project with plans, sections, elevations and 3- dimensional representations. A physical model will also be included.