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RICARDO LEGORRETA
 
 
 
 
  Name Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis
     
  Born May 7, 1931
     
  Died December 30, 2011
     
  Nationality Mexico
     
  School  
     
  Official website legorretalegorreta.com
     
 
BIOGRAPHY
 

Over the past 40 years, Ricardo Legorreta has created innovative
solutions to contemporary building challenges. His work com-
bines architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design,
with a respect for the regional climate and the diverse heritage
of Mexican society. In projects ranging from private residences to
factories, libraries, hotels and resorts, and museums, Legorreta’s
work stands out for his use of color, water, proportion, light,
and planes.

For all its references to a European-derived modernism, Leg-
orreta’s work profoundly reflects the images of indigenous Mex-
ico. His designs remain rooted in an understanding of Mexico's
pre-Columbian and colonial past. Legorreta studied at the Es-
cuela Nacional de Arquitectura of the Universidad Nacional Au-
ténoma de México, under architect José Villagran Garcia. Vii
lagran Garcia, part of the vanguard of the first generation of
postrevolutionary Mexican architects, instilled in his students a
sense of social responsibility, as well as the moral dimension of
architecture. Upon completion of his studies in 1952, Legoretta
worked in Villagran Garcia’s studio, becoming a partner in 1955;
the results of this collaboration are seen in the functionalist/
rationalist Hotel Maria Isabel (1961).

Legoratta was aware of the limitations of functionalism as
practiced in Mexico, particularly what he perceived as its rigidity,
universality, and lack of warmth. He sought a new architectural
identity that expressed a Mexican sensibility, and one that recog-


nized the nation’s diverse, regional components—something that
the rationalist.

In his private practice begun in 1959, Legoratta was able to
develop his own vocabulary. Among the first buildings com-
pleted by his new firm were the Smith Kline and French Labora-
tories (1964; Mexico City) and factories for Chrysler (1964;
Toluca) and Nissan Motors (1966; Cuernavaca). These struc-
tures drew on his academic training gained in Villagran Garcia’s
studio, as evidenced in their balance, efficiency, and functional-
ity. Further, these buildings contain the first indications of what
would become a constant theme in Legorreta’s industrial archi-
tecture: a concern for those who labor within the buildings. To
that end, assembly lines are designed to human scale and work
and office space is blended seamlessly.

The Chrysler factory also represents a watershed in Legor-
reta’s development of design solutions that are relevant to Mexi-
can social and physical climates. It was at this point that Legor-
reta met Luis Barragin, who advised him to invest more
attention into the landscape. This led to further refinement of
what became known as an emotional or empathic architecture.

Subsequent works in collaboration with Barragan, such as the
Camino Real Hotel (1968) in Mexico City, represent a fusion of
tradition and modernity. One sees the architect's awareness of

the central propositions of functionalism imbued with his admi-
ration for the vernacular. In the Hotel Camino Real, Legorreta
departed from convention, which dictated high-rise construc-
tion. Instead, with pre-Hispanic and colonial forms in mind,
he emphasized horizontality. The resulting form blends public
spaces effortlessly: the horizontal emphasis allows for lavish gar-
dens, patios, pools, and fountains, all accentuated by a brilliant
use of color, which commences with a startling magenta screen
at the hotel entrance. The interior is an intimate refuge, given
his attention to interior light, to details in the design of furnish-
ings, and in the placement of artworks (including murals by
Rufino Tamayo and Mathias Goeritz, and sculpture by Alexan-
der Calder.) Together these elements infuse this work with a
sense of mystery and of warmth, elements that characterize Le-
gorreta’s style.

These elements are also prominent in later hotels executed
by Legorreta’s firm, notably the Hotel Camino Real Cancin
(1975) and the Hotel Camino Real Ixtapa (1981). These hotels
are graceful adaptations to their sites, whether placed between
the sea and a lagoon, as at Canciin, or following the slope of
the face of a cliff, as in Ixtapa. The results harmonize with the
environment, mediating interior and exterior spaces. The Ixtapa
site features expansive, welcoming, open public areas, as well
as terraces and walkways to the beach, and pools that invite
exploration and contemplation of the dramatic setting.

Asimilar integration of building and site is apparent in Legor-
reta’s industrial architecture of the 1970s and 1980s. Projects
such as the IBM factory (1975) in Guadalajara, Kodak Laborato-
ries (1975) in Mexico City, and the Renault factory (1984) in
Durango, manifest this tendency in diverse environments. In

the Renault factory, Legorreta drew inspiration from the desert
site; the final form is a striking composition of massive red and
ochre walls, whose mass complements the limitless desert hori-
zon, providing protection from harsh elements as well as an
affirmation of the desert itself. The cobblestone landscape con-
tinues the desert hues and textures, joining building to site in
a manner that would be impossible to achieve solely with vegeta-
tion.

In 1985 Legorreta Arquitectos began one of their most exten-
sive works: the master plan for Solana in Dallas, Texas, and
the design of the Solana Village Center and the IBM National
Marketing and Technical Support Center. Legorreta’s master
plan was intended to evoke traditions of the Hispanic southwest,
avoiding the anonymity, sterility, and boredom, often evident
in office and mixed-use complexes. The result, created on a site
measuring some seven million square feet, succeeds in linking
modern construction techniques with a sense of timelessness.
The Solana Village Center, reminiscent of Mexican colonial-era
plazas, presents a hotel with clusters of office and retail buildings,
where brown and white stucco exteriors harmonize with the
colors and textures of the prairie landscape.

In Legorreta’s residential work a personal, contemplative side
emerges, illustrating the extensive talent of this architect, To this
point, the Molinas (1973), Montalban (1985; Los Angeles), and
Greenberg (1991; Los Angeles) residences demonstrate his fluid-
ity in designing for distinctive physical environments and cul-
tures. Massive walls preserve privacy and offer scant clues as to
the function of a particular segment, in keeping with the Mexi-
can vernacular traditions. Light and color create warmth; walls
are often perforated by lattices, balanced further by the gentle

flow of water into pools. As in his large scale works, the result
is an organic composition, ably blending art and architecture,
exterior and interior, light and shadow.

Patrice OLSEN

 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE
 

Born in Mexico City, 7 May 1931. Educated at the Universidad
Nacional Auténoma de México, Mexico City 1948-52; degree
Grgrchi eerie d S50) Martied Maria Lute Herhandes 1956 6
children. Draftsman, 1948-52, project manager, 1953-55, for
José Villagran Garcia, Mexico City; partnership with Villagran
1555260; Fisclatice architect Mexico City 1961-63; principal,
Legorreta Arquitectos, Mexico City from 1963; principal, Legor-
reta Arquitectos Diseftos, Mexico City from 1977; Los Angeles
office established 1985. Design professor, 1959-62, chief of the
experimental architecture group, 1962-64, Universidad Nacio-
nal Auténoma de México, Mexico City; visiting professor at
numerous universities in North America and Spain. Distin-
guished honorary fellow, Mexican Society of Architects 1978;
honorary fellow, American Institute of Architects 1979; juror,
Pritzker Prize from 1983; member, consultant committee, J.
Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 1986; member, Urban Devel-
opment Council of the Miguel Hidalgo Delegation, Mexico City
1989; member, International Jerusalem Committee 1989; ad-
viser to the president of CNCA, Mexico City 1992; honorary
member, Academy of Arts, Mexico. Awarded the AIA Gold
Medal in 2000.


 
 
 
 
 
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