Unveiling Diego Rivera’s Contribution to Mexican Architecture

By Patricia Morgado.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Within the vast surface of murals that cover the walls of Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education, a self-portrait of its author, Diego Rivera, goes unnoticed. Unexpectedly, Mexico’s premier muralist depicted himself as a builder, anticipating his explorations in architecture, still relatively unknown. From 1924 onward, Rivera played a critical role in Mexico’s architectural developments: as a critic, as an advocate of the need for a solution to Mexico’s housing deficit, as a client for his and Frida Kahlo’s studio-houses, as a proponent of a housing development, and, lastly, as a designer and builder of his museum-studio, Anahuacalli. Although in the 1920s and early 1930s Le Corbusier’s ideas were promising for what Rivera called the “humanization of architecture,” by the 1940s the artist saw in the proliferation of functionalism and International Style, another symbol of Mexico’s dependency on foreign cultures. Disappointed, Rivera chose to dismiss functionalism altogether, move out of his Corbusian studio-house designed by Juan O’Gorman and, in addition to using lectures and articles to voice his new position, become personally involved in generating a truly Mexican architecture. Rivera planned the “City of the Arts” with a museum-studio, Anahuacalli, as the central unit from which a new architectural movement rooted in Pre-Columbian traditions would stem. He personally designed, built, and oversaw the construction of Anahuacalli and only sought technical assistance from his architect friend O’Gorman. The result is an abstract composite of Teotihuacan and Mayan architecture containing a generous studio and rich interior spaces for the display of Rivera’s extensive collection of pre-Columbian objects. With Anahuacalli, Rivera preceded several of Le Corbusier’s former followers in their desire to give an authentic expression to Mexican architecture. By studying the muralist’s writings, buildings, and the reactions he provoked on Mexico’s architectural community, this paper traces Rivera’s contribution to the making of Mexican architecture.

Keywords: Diego Rivera, Mexican Architecture

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp.231-244. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.603MB).

Dr. Patricia Morgado

Associate Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture, College of Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA


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