Pioneer Architects IX

architectuul:

Modern culture in Mexico has found its filiation and origin in the personal isolation of its artificers, in which the Mexican is defined as the living conscience of it; from poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to architect Luis Barragán. The authentic Mexican women revolution in architecture emerges from the separation from a guild that has always shown a profound historical conscience and ignored until then, the value of the doubt and the exam. 

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Courtyard of the el Eco. | Photo courtesy Museo Experimental el Eco

This traditionalism in the Mexican
architecture and its ways, gave it strength and depth to these women and their
forced isolation by the invisible walls of that same tradition, whose only exit
(Barragán would later prescribe it) was a quiet revolution through the
resurgence of the disciplinar reality and the conservative schemes of its long
history. This secular isolation of women in the architectural field, provided
them with a distant intelligence and a critical eye, that wasn’t in love with
its particularities. For this issue of Pioneer architects, we find ourselves
reflecting over the legacy of the solitary images of these pioneer architects,
designers and historians, that shaped in different ways, the culture of design
in Mexico in the XX Century, breaking their sound of silence.

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IRGSA with inscription from Clara Porset to Fidel Castro, 1960.
| Photo via 
Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

Such is the case of  María Luisa Dehesa, the first Latin american architect to
receive the degree in Mexico in 1937; Cuban industrial designer Clara Porset, who made her career in Mexico expanding
the limits of Academia in the country and worked closely with Luis Barragan and Mario Pani; Nationalist promoter of the Mexican and
first architect engineer from the National Polytechnic Institute Ruth
Rivera Marín
; North American Architecture Historian Esther McCoy whose fascination and critical view on Mexican Modernism would travel and
impact the development of architecture and design in California; and first
industrial designer, entrepreneur and promoter of Mexican modern design María Aurora Campos Newman.

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Poster of the exhibition “El arte en la vida diaria”. | Photo via Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

The real revolution of these women wasn’t to find the crack in the guild’s
wall, knock down the doors of their academia, nor open the windows of the
discipline searching for fresh air, openness, creative and professional
freedom, questioning with their actions the absolute trust with which the old
architects confronted the world from their own collegiate and groups. Their
greatest merit, was to create themselves a world to live in and share it with
us.

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María
Luisa Dehesa Gómez Farías
  (Mexico, 1912-2009) was the first woman to receive her
architect degree in Mexico and Latin America, breaking the traditionally
man-designated space on the discipline in the country. Her approach to architecture from a social perspective would be defined early
on in her career when she proposed her thesis “Artillery Barracks Type” as a
response to the high criminality among sons of soldiers that lacked a proper
housing to share with their parent who remained quartered in the Barracks. Her
proposal for the construction of a social family housing unit shaped her future
projects and almost 50 year trajectory where she would continue to focus on
housing in government dependencies on an urban scale in Mexico City’s Public
Work Department.

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Clara Porset (Cuba,
1895-1981) was born in Cuba and became one the referent for Mexican
design of the XX century.  She studied architecture and furniture design in the Paris studio of Henri Rapin and
attended classes at École des Beaux
Arts, Sorbonne, and the Louvre. In 1934 she traveled to the United States
to study under former Bauhaus instructors, artists Josef and Anni Albers at
Black Mountain College. To her return to Cuba, she was briefly
artistic director of the Technical School for Women, which she was forced to leave
yet again due to her political stands. Back in Mexico, she married Mexican
muralist Xavier Guerrero. 

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Clara Porset and Xavier Guerrero. | Photo via Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

Her furniture designs would
continue to be produced by Ruiz Galindo Industries (IRGSA) in the 50’s
developing her E (wooden) and H (metal) – office furniture series. Porset later
curated the exhibition Art in Daily Life: An
Exhibition of Well-Designed Objects Made in Mexico
at the Instituto Nacional de
Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 1952, featuring handcrafted and mass-produced
objects from local and international artists and designers. 

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Exhibition “El arte en la vida diaria” in Bellas Artes Museum, 1952. | Photo via Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

By the end of the
50’s she returned this time to post-revolutionary Cuba to design the new
society
 furniture visions of the revolutionaries in schools and universities. 

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Exhibition “El arte de la vida diaria” in UNAM 1952. | Photo via Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

She returned to Mexico then to teach Art History at the recently founded
Industrial Design Program at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where she settled part of her
legacy in Mexican Modern Design through her personal collection, library and archive.

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Clara Porset’s chairs in the Julius Shulman studio in California, 1952. | Photo via Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

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Clara Porset and Xavier Guerrero, Low Cost Design Competition Drawings, Museum of Modern Art. | Photo via Salinas, Oscar. Una vida inquieta, una obra sin igual, UNAM, México, 2001

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Diego Rivera and Ruth Rivera. | Photo via Fototeca Nacional

Ruth Rivera Marín
(Mexico, 1927-1969) was the first woman to graduate from
the College of Engineering and Architecture at the National Polytechnic
Institute in Mexico in 1950. Daughter of Mexican renowned muralist Diego Rivera
and well-known actress and writer Guadalupe Rivera Marín, she was early on
introduced to the world of the arts and culture. She studied urban
rehabilitation in Rome after working in the master plan for the city of Celaya,
Guanajuato for the public service. She then returned to Mexico to teach
architecture Theory, Architectural Composition and Urban Planning Theory, and
furthering her intellectual acumen and nationalist ideal working closely with
Diego Rivera and architects Juan O’Gorman,
Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and
Enrique Yañez. 

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Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City. | Photo courtesy of Museo Anahuacalli

By the 1960’s she became head of planning for the
Ministry of public Education’s National Systems of Regional Rural School.
Rivera would later be involved on the building of the national Medical Center
and the Museum of Modern art in close collaboration with Pedro Ramírez Vázquez;
as well as with Luis Barragan on the Museum ‘El
Eco’ in Mexico City. Her most noted work was the Anahuacalli Museum in
association with Diego Rivera and Juan O’Gorman; and her design for the Mexican
Pavilion for the 1962 Century 21 Fair in Seattle alongside Carlos Mijares.
Rivera then ran Notebooks of Architecture and
Conservation of the Artistic patrimony and its supplement Notebooks of Architecture, a journal of theory and practice in
the discipline that was the basis for teaching in the XX Century in Mexico.

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Anahuacalli Museum under construction. | Courtesy of Museo Anahuacalli

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Mexican Pavilion Interior at the Seattle World’s Fair Exposition in 1962. | Photo by postcard Ebay

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Esther McCoy (USA, 1904-1989) was an American
architecture critic and historian, instrumental in bringing the modern
architecture of California to the world, shaping modernism in Los Angeles.
Contributor to the magazine’s Arts & Architecture, Architectural Forum,
Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture; the Los Angeles Times and The
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, as well as European journals L’Architectura and
Lotus; her writing was a leading critical voice in a male-dominated
architecture community, tracing the now well constructed Californian modernism
identity. 

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Archives of American Art: Cuernavaca, ca. 1950 | Esther McCoy papers (1876-1990), bulk 1938-1989; Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

However, less known is her contribution and broadcast of Mexican
Modernism to California. During the year-long period spent in Mexico in 1951,
her writing and observations of the vibrant and contextual modernist scene
developing in Mexico during the 50’s; while drawing the references and
connection in the design language and spatial articulation that architects from
both places used, building a bridge between Mexico and California, the
international and popular style, Luis Barragán and
Rudolph Schindler, Clara Porset and Richard Neutra. During her
trips to Mexico, she witnessed the construction of Mario Pani and Enrique del
Moral Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Campus, the
domestic architecture of Luis Barragán, Juan O-Gorman, and Francisco Artigas,
key figures of the the modernization in the country and brought them to an
audience that knew little about it.

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Research photographs: Furniture and Crafts, ca. 1950 | Esther McCoy papers, 1876-1990; bulk 1938-1989; Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

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María Aurora Campos Newman de Díaz with her son. | Photo via Grupo di

María
Aurora Campos Newman de Díaz
 (1941-2003) was the first
Mexican woman in the country  to graduate
as industrial designer from the Universidad Iberoamericana in 1962 with a
thesis on packaging for children beauty products. Inspired by her time working
at the projects department at Knoll International, she left to Italy in 1965 to
continue her studies at the Politecnico di Milano, and then to Germany in 1967 to
study at the renowned Universität Ulm.
After the school’s definite closing in 1968, she returned to Mexico in 1969,
where she became famous for her commitment to promote design as founder of
Grupo di in 1971, a company devoted the office-interior space planning, and
designated Knoll’s distributed in Mexico until 1985. 

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Recepetion oak wooden desk with chromed steel base. | Photo via Grupo di

Among her most renowned
projects of her, was the new image for the international executive lounge for
Mexicana de Aviación in Mexico City’s international airport; a project
incorporating in the interior design, and integral way to incorporated
furniture, exhibition stands, finishings and technology, opening a field of
corporate interior design. In 1983, Campos Newman founded DA COLOR, a pioneer
store in Mexico specialized in self-build furniture made by national designers.
By 1988 Grupo di started importing Italian furniture and becoming the exclusive
distributor in the country for Estel, Arflex, Matteograssi and Reixte; until
1999, from where she developed her own office furniture line, produced entirely
in Mexico, Euro. Her entrepreneurial labor and integral philosophy towards
design, carried an important role in the development and promotion of Mexican
modern design.

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International Executive Lounge “Mexicana de aviación”, Mexico
City International Airport. | Photo via Grupo di

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by Tania Tovar Torres


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