The Contemporary Mexican Style: Ricardo Legorreta

Contemporary Mexican Architecture was born in the second half of the 20th Century, different from all architecture styles; it uses as a reference the modern architecture movement but it does not use the typical Neocolonial or Californian language.

Ricardo Legorreta is one of contemporary Mexican architecture´s most talented, prolific and renowned creators, followed by architect Antonio Attolini Lack, as well as Bosco Gutierrez Cortina, Andres Casillas and José de Yturbe.

Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis started his professional life working with José Villagrán García, a pioneer of Mexican Modern architecture, and was his partner between 1955‑1960. By 1964, Legorreta established his own practice.

Legorreta reached his mature style with the groundbreaking Camino Real Hotel (1968) in Mexico City, one of many buildings raised in the capital in the years preceding the Mexico City Olympic Games.

Legorreta’s style combined many of the aspects of the International Style with elements derived from the climate, colors, and architectural history of Mexico. His projects incorporated luxurious volumes, thick walls, gridded windows, long corridors, grand airy spaces, and, very often, his signature colors.

His oeuvre merges two of the most representative trends in modern Mexican architecture, functionalism and emotional architecture, inherited from both his teachers, José Villagrán and Luis Barragán.

To be able to understand his relationship with Villagrán and Barragán, I would like to repeat what Legorreta once stated: “If I had to assign professional parentage, I would be inclined to divide it evenly between Villagrán, since his teachings have been the basis and foundation of my architecture: he taught me, among many other things, the seriousness of work, the transcendence of professional ethics. I met Barragán a long time later, and I was not his pupil, but his friend. My approximation to Barragán gave my creativity wings. But, without Villagrán’s principles, I would have achieved little.” “The least of what Luis Barragán talked to me about was architecture. I was inspired by the quality of his life, his perfectionism, his immaculate proportions and his refinement.”  “We would have to add to these influences that of painter Chucho Reyes, the master of color, the one who taught us everything.”

Polychromy became one of the most recognizable characteristics of Legorreta’s work, although his greatest merit was knowing how to transporting the concept of “emotional architecture” into the monumental scale, which in Luis Barragán had not transcended the sphere of the home.

Legorreta and Barragán were introduced by sculptor and architect Mathias Goeritz at the inaugural ceremony of Automex in 1964. Legorreta had just been commissioned for the project of the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico City and he invited Barragán to be his landscape consultant. After that, both remained good friends until Barragán’s passing in 1988.

Legorreta also paid a lot of attention on his interiors, which he considered an integral part of the process, where he brought his experience in the design of furniture and accessories as well as the selection of art. His spaces are imbued with warm textures and colors, with natural materials like terracotta, wood and textiles, and with refined details displaying indigenous craftsmanship, all delicately balanced.

Among Legorreta’s best known furniture designs are the “Tlaquepaque” and the “Vallarta” furniture lines, which he used in many of his projects including chairs, stools, tables and side tables, dining and bedroom sets, sideboards, bar stools, etc.

I picked some of Legorreta’s interiors to present these furniture designs:

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