Art in Latin American Architecture

By Paul F. Damaz | Go to book overview

Experimental Architecture

The Emotional Architecture of Mathias Goeritz

No artist is more conscious of the spiritual function that should be given to architecture than Mathias Goeritz, the German sculptor, who has become one of the foremost artists of Mexico. "Art in general," he says, "and naturally architecture also, is an expression of man's spiritual condition at a particular time. . . . The modern architect exaggerates the importance of the rational aspect of architecture. The result is that twentieth-century man feels overwhelmed by the functionalism and logic of modern architecture. But modern man asks for something more. He wants architecture to provide a spiritual elevation such as the pyramids, the Greek temples, the Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals gave mankind in their time. . . . We shell again find it possible to regard architecture as an art when, and only when, it inspires in us true emotions."

Following this line of thought, Goeritz has executed in the past few years two of his most important conceptions: the museum El Eco and the towers of the Satellite City outside Mexico City. In each case the work was undertaken "as an example of architecture the function of which was emotion."

Experimental Museum El Eco, Mexico City, 1952-1953 Architectural conception: Mathias Goeritz. Technical advisers: Ruth Rivers, De la peña. Art consultant: Luis Barragán. Artists: Mathias Goeritz, German Cueto, Carlos Mérida, Alfonso Soto, Rufino Tamayo, Henry Moore, Alice Rahon, Felipe Orlando, Leonora Carrington. Ballet: Walter Nicks.

The idea of this Experimental Museum come to Goeritz when an art patron, Daniel Mont, gave him a building site in the center of Mexico City and told him to do with it whatever he pleased. Without any preconceived plan, he created a series of spaces, forms, colors, false perspectives, sculptures and paintings with the sole purpose of achieving a spiritual and emotional impact.

The entrance to the building was through a long dark corridor in which a forced perspective was created by converging floors and ceilings and tapered floor-boards. The focal point of this corridor was a giant grotesque figure, part of a large mural designed by Henry Moore and executed by Alfonso Soto, and completely filling the wall of the main room. This mural was first projected by Tamayo, who traced on the wall the principal lines of a composition, which Moore respected. The main room was connected by a large single window with a high-walled, cloister-like patio intended for outdoor exhibitions. In a corner of this court, Goeritz installed a permanent snake-like structure, a sculptural-architectural object that was used as a background and as a theme for an experimental ballet. Completing the composition was a tall wall-column, its yellow color contrasting with the gray, black and white of the walls. On one face of the column was Goeritz's Plastic Poem, ". . . a visual composition of abstract typography addressing itself solely to the sensitiveness of the spectator." Among contributions made by other artists was a mural by Carlos Mérida for the barroom, which was only partly executed. El Eco was subsequently diverted from its original purpose, transformed into a night club and progressively defaced. However, it remains one of the most valuable visual experiments in producing, through an automatic but not systematic integration of the plastic arts, a maximum emotional response.

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Art in Latin American Architecture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Picture Credits 6
  • Acknowledgments 7
  • Color Illustrations 8
  • Contents 9
  • Author's Note 11
  • Preface 13
  • Foreword 14
  • Part 1 19
  • Sources of Latin American Culture 23
  • The Pre-Columbian Heritage 27
  • Colonial Art and Architecture 35
  • Modern Architecture 42
  • Contemporary Art in Latin America 52
  • Art in Modern Architecture 68
  • Part 2 107
  • Schools 129
  • Theaters, Restaurants, Clubs and Commercial Buildings 155
  • Hospitals and Religious Buildings 168
  • Hotels, Apartment Buildings and Private Houses 183
  • Monuments and Memorials 197
  • Landscape Architecture 208
  • Experimental Architecture 222
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 231
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