May '13 - Feb '16
Pop quiz hotshot- where can you find works by Legorreta, TEN arquitectos, and Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon in the same place?
CENART, Mexico's National Center for the Arts, is a large campus of many of the national art schools- the National school of Theater, National School of Contemporary and Classical Dance, the Superior School of Music, the National School of Cinematography, and one of the national graphic and sculptural art schools. The campus also includes, obviously, several large auditorium, museums, cafes, a bookstore, and the largest art supply store I've seen in the city. Separated from the main campus by a park, is a movie theater and a large parking garage.
The campus was built in the end of the 1990s by the leading Mexican architects of the time. Walking through is like ordering a Mexican combination plate- it's not the best works of each, but part of the fun is having them all side by side together and being able to identify them.
If it's brightly colored with repetitive slits and big square windows with projecting metal sills, it's Legorreta. It was his office (Legorreta+Legorreta) which designed the main spine, a long orange building and walkway terminating in two towers, a strikingly vibrant orange and purple (both, coincidently, the colors of Dia de Los Muertos). I believe he also designed the National painting and sculpture school, but I'm not positive.
If it's uncolored concrete and glass, in giant geometric forms reminiscent of Meier, it's Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon. You can kind of track the careers of both architects by the ratio of concrete/stone to glazing. The earliest works are masses of concrete. The most contemporary works are masses of glass. This auditorium is a a bit towards the middle with a heavy facade which lightens and dematerializes into glass and lighter structure inside.
I'm not as familiar with TEN arquitecto's work, but here his National School of Theater is more high tech with its massive corrugated steel shell and industrial flying spiral stairs. On the ground level there's a large open air social space with a student cafe, spaces to lounge, and areas which have been taken over by scenery and props for practices.
It's a fun place to wander around. There are students practicing, visitors taking various art classes, outside performers setting up shows in the various venues, families strolling in the park, and the occasional architecture nerd just taking photos of buildings.
On the one hand, I am a bit disappointed that I only made it here on my last weekend in Mexico City after living here six months. On the other hand, because I'm now very familiar with many of these architects, it's got the feeling of seeing the movie stars together again in the credits.
Urban and architectural explorations from Mexico City to Stuttgart Germany through the eyes of a iterant architectural designer