Edificio para Oficinas de la Lotería Nacional, Ciudad de México Architect: TORRES + VELÁZQUEZ, Arq. Héctor Velázquez Moreno, Arq. Ramón Torres Martínez. Colaboradores: David Muñoz y Sergio Santacruz 1974. © Image cortesy of Despacho de Arquitectos HV, S.A. de C.V.

The Singular Defining Characteristics of Modern Architecture in Mexico

Estadio Deportivo de Ciudad Universitaira, Mexico City Architect: Augusto Pérez Palacios, Jorge Bravo y Raúl Salinas. Con murales de Diego Rivera. 1949-1952. © Image cortesy of the Archivos de Arquitectos Mexicanos, UNAM.

Fabrica Automex, Lerma, Estado de México Architect: Ricardo Legorreta Colaborador: Matías Goeritz 1963. © Image cortesy of Legorreta + Legorreta. Photographer: Kati Horna.

Estadio Deportivo de Ciudad Universitaira, Mexico City Architect: Augusto Pérez Palacios, Jorge Bravo y Raúl Salinas. Con murales de Diego Rivera. 1949-1952. © Image cortesy of the Archivos de Arquitectos Mexicanos, UNAM.

Sucursal del Banco del Valle de Mexico, Mexico City Architect: Augusto H. Álvarez 1958 © Image courtesy of the Archivos de Arquitectos Mexicanos, UNAM.

Biblioteca Central de Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City Architect: Juan O’ Gorman Colaborador. Gustavo Saavedra y Juan Martínez de Velasco. 1950-1952. © Image cortesy of the Archivos de Arquitectos Mexicanos, UNAM.

Taller de Arquitectura, Ciudad de México Architect: Agustín Hernández 1970 © Image cortesy of Agustín Hernández.


Centre for Fine Arts
10, rue Royale Koningsstraat
02 507 82 00
Mexican Modernisms
February 11-April 11, 2010

There is more to modernist architecture in Mexico than just the work of Luis Barragán, its most renowned representative. The detailed plans and impressive enlarged photographs in this exhibition offer a broad overview of architectural production in post-war Mexico. In addition, a unique series of documentary films and contemporary documents helps to flesh out this fascination evocation of the refined lines and raw functionalism of Mexican modernism.

Fifteen years after the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1917, government endorsements for federal housing, educational, and health care building programs began. While the development of modern architecture in Mexico bears some noteworthy parallels to its North American and European counterparts, its trajectory highlights several unique characteristics, which challenged existing definitions modern architecture. During the post-Revolutionary period, idealization of the indigenous and the traditional symbolized attempts to reach into the past and retrieve what had been lost in the race toward modernization.

Functionalism, expressionism, and other schools have left their imprint on a large number of works in which Mexican stylistic elements have been combined with European and North American techniques.

The Institute of Hygiene (1925) in Popotla, Mexico, by José Villagrán García, was one of the first examples of this new national architecture. The studio designed by Juan O'Gorman in San Angel, Mexico City, for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (1931-32) is a fine example of vanguard architecture built in Mexico. Mexico’s first project of high-density, low-cost housing was the Centro Urbano Alemán (1947-49), Mexico City, by Mario Pani.

Perhaps the most ambitious project of modern architecture was the construction, begun in 1950, Ciudad Universitaria outside Mexico City, a complex of buildings and grounds housing the National Autonomous University of Mexico. A cooperative venture, the project was directed by Carlos Lazo, Enrique Del Moral, and Pani. In the new campus the art of the Mexican muralists was incorporated into the architecture, beginning with Rivera’s relief in the new Estadio Olímpico Universitario (1952), by Augusto Pérez Palacios, Jorge Bravo, and Raúl Salinas. The Rectory (1952), by Pani, del Moral, and Salvador Ortega Flores, includes murals by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Perhaps the best integration of mural art with the new architecture is seen in the University Library, by O’Gorman, Gustavo Saavedra, and Juan Martínez de Velasco, which features a monumental mosaic design on the facade by O’Gorman. Another architect of note is Felix Candela, who designed the expressionistic church Nuestra Señora de los Milagros.

This was a period of diverse experimentation and even structural innovation, as seen in the thin-shell concrete structures by the Spanish architect Felix Candela, such as his Church of the Miraculous Virgin (1953) in Mexico City and the Cosmic Ray Pavilion (1952) on the university campus. The integration of art and architecture became a constant in Mexican modern architecture, which can be seen in the courtyard of the Anthropology Museum (c. 1963-65) in Mexico City, by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez.

Another side of Mexican modern architecture is represented in the work of Luis Barragán. The houses that he designed in the 1950s and ’60s explored a way to reconcile the lessons of Le Corbusier with the Spanish colonial tradition. This new synthesis created a completely original Modernist architecture that is uniquely adapted to its environment.

Ricardo Legorreta’s Camino Real Hotel (1968) in Mexico City is a composition of courtyards and roof terraces within the walls of one downtown block. This work is indebted to the work of Barragán, applying his methods on a larger public scale. In Mexico the Brutalism of Teodoro González de León’s Music Conservatory (1994) and the Neo-Barragánesque library (1994) by Legorreta coexist in the new National Centre of the Arts with the work of a younger generation of architects who are influenced by contemporary architecture in Europe and North America.

The School of Theatre (1994), by TEN Arquitectos, and the School of Dance (1994), by Luis Vicente Flores, express a modernity that reinforces the government’s desire to present a new image of Mexico as an industrialized country with a global presence. Enrique Norten, the founder of TEN Arquitectors, was presented with the “Legacy Award” by the Smithsonian Institution for his contributions to the US arts and culture through his work. In 2005 he received the “Leonardo da Vinci” World Award of Arts by the World Cultural Council and was the first Mies van der Rohe Award recipient for Latin American Architecture.

The refined work of Alberto Kalach and Daniel Alvarez stands out both in their numerous residences as well as in the San Juan de Letrán Station (1994) in Mexico City. The residential work of José Antonio Aldrete-Haas in Mexico City shows both the influence of the attenuated Modernism of the great Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza and a continuity with the lessons of Barragán. Other notable and emerging contemporary architects include Mario Schjetnan, Michel Rojkind, Tatiana Bilbao, Isaac Broid and Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta, Juan C. Ordaz Coppel and Jacinto Avalos from Avalos Arquitectos y Asociados with award winning works in Mexico, USA and Europe.

Curators of the exhibition are Jose Castillo, Wonne Ickx.

Juan Sordo Madaleno, Edificio Palmas, 1975.

Edificio Jaysour, Mexico City Architect: Augusto H. Álvarez, Arquitecto colaborador: Octavio Sánchez Álvarez. 1961-1964. © Image courtesy of the Archivos de Arquitectos Mexicanos, UNAM.



Augustin Hérnandez, Heroico Colegio Militar, 1975.