Juan O’Gorman (1905- 1982)
(Self Portrait 1951)
The murals of the UNAM Central Library, by Juan O'Gorman
Juan O'Gorman (July 6, 1905- January 17 1982) was a Mexican artist, both painter and architect.
O'Gorman was born in Coyoacan, Mexican Federal District, which is a suburb within the greater Mexico
City. As his name suggests he was born to an Irish father, Cecil Crawford O'Gorman, who was a painter himself and a Mexican
mother. In the 1920's he studied architecture at the Academy of San Carols, and the Art and Architecture school National
University, Mexico. He became a well known architect, and was commissioned to work on many buildings in Mexico including new
Bank Of Mexico building, and under the influence of Le Corbusier
he introduced modern functionalist architecture to Mexico City.
O'Gorman went on to design and build 26 elementary schools in Mexico City, but as he matured
O'Gorman turned away from the strict functionalism ideals that he became famous for and worked to develop an organic architecture,
combining the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright
with traditional Mexican constructions.
Further on from his architecture, his paintings often covered many subjects though out Mexican
history, such as landscape, and legends. He also painted the murals in the Independence Room in Mexico City's Chapultepec
Castle and the big murals of the Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
In a sad ending he died on January 17, 1982, as a result of suicide. Authorities believe the artist
grew despondent after being diagnosed with a heart ailment which curtailed his work. Mr. O'gorman, who was 76 years old, was
found dead at his home.
However it was to be the house he built for Diego River and Frida Kahlo in 1931-1932 that was to gain O'Gorman national recognition
and remains one of his most famous and important creations. His relationship with Rivera grew once the house
was built and they remained close friends, and in turn, evident in his work, Rivera influenced O'gormans paintings.
Rationalism and the Casa- Estudio
On the left you can see the two sketches of the two different homes, by Juan O'Gorman. They where designed
separately, with the importance of individuality in mind. With the sense that they where never meant to match, but to juxtapose
each other, highlighting the couples individuality, but still close enough to be together.
The architect, built this house for a purpose hense the term 'Functionalist Architecture.' The idea of this
takes away some of the romance that a lot of architecture has. It is often the popular conception that art has to be personal,
a personal desire inside the artist, who has been inspired to create a work of art. But it is the idea that a structure is
built for functional reasons, to be used, as to why this space has been designed the way it was.
For example, this structure was used for the creation of art, it has a large studio for the couple to actively
use daily, however it had to be a sound living environment and the importance and obvious sense of separation, highlights
the function of the building being used for the artists occupations. More work and less play, for want of a better expression.
There are touches of personality in the house, as mentioned previously, the yellow daffodils or the cooking
utensils in the kitchen, make this space, less of a working house and a bit more of a home!
Linking in with O'Gormans 'functional' approach to the space, is another 'ism' in architecture 'Rationalism.'
Rationalist Architecture was an idea explored in the 18th century, during the Enlightenment, this
period in art is known as 'Neoclassicism.' It tried to change the ideas from the Baroque period, as it opposed the Baroque
beauty of illusion with the classic beauty of truth and reason. Its an idea that architecture is a science
that can be comprehended rationally and argues that architecture's intellectual base is primarily in science as opposed to
reverence for archaic traditions and beliefs. Jean- Nicolas- Louis Durand was a teacher at the influential Ecole Polytechnique
in Paris and he also argues that architecture in its entirety was based in science.
Moving on through the 19th century, architects such
as Henri Labrouste and Auguste Perret incorporated the characteristics of structural rationalism throughout the 19th
century in their buildings and by the early 20th century, architects such as Hendrick Petrus Berlage, and Juan O'Gorman were
exploring the idea that structure itself could create space without the need for decoration. This gave rise to another 'ism,'
that of modernism, which further explored this concept.
A fantastic comprehensive article on the history of
Architectural Rationalism can be found if you click on this link www.itaucultural.org
So we can see how the ideas of 'Functionalism and Rationalism'
go hand in hand, due to the ideas of science and a space being created with the purpose or function in mind. When u enter
the ground of the museum or simply look at it from the outside, these theories are apparent.