04 april 2024

Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's twin houses in San Ángel, Mexico. Architect: Juan O’Gorman.

Diego Rivera’s double‑height studio, 1932(?).

Shared spaces on the first floor, 1932.

Contrasting with the studio’s grand proportions, but following functionalist ideas, spaces dedicated to rest are small. On the second floor, tucked behind the curved wall of his bathroom, is Rivera’s bedroom, 1932.

Frida Kahlo’s bedroom and studio on the second floor after the renovation, 1977.

Juan O’Gorman on the mezzanine overlooking Rivera’s studio.

In 1932, the 27‑year‑old architect Juan O’Gorman completed a pair of linked residences and ateliers for the newly wed painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo on a prominent corner of Avenida Altavista.
O’Gorman had already designed, in 1929, a modernist house on the plot directly behind the artist couple’s commission. It is known as the Cecil O’Gorman House, after the architect’s claim in his autobiography that it was designed for his father.
When Rivera saw the house, he asked O’Gorman to build a similar set of homes for himself and Kahlo on the vacant land next to it, a former tennis court. With the three houses, among the earliest works of functionalist architecture in Latin America, O’Gorman aimed to create buildings ‘whose form was derived completely from their utilitarian function’. At the time, he was a devoted disciple of Le Corbusier, and the Altavista project is clearly indebted to the Swiss‑French architect’s dictate that a home should be an effective machine for living in.
As photogenic as the Rivera and Kahlo houses are today – they are now very popular among tourists and location scouts – they were built as a statement against architectural aestheticism, mirroring O’Gorman’s ideological convictions. The studio‑houses are rightly celebrated as pioneering paragons of a new international building style, but they are more than that – they represent a system of values that O’Gorman, an ardent socialist, considered paramount: efficiency; moderate cost; minimum space for basic living and working functions; a clear, some would say fetishistic, expression of functional aspects; and a dispensing with unnecessary amenities. This explains why, to contemporary sensibilities, the houses appear surprisingly spartan and compact.
The complex consists of two separate cube‑like structures connected, at roof level, by an uncovered narrow walkway. Kahlo’s house is smaller, in a sign of the time’s gender dynamics, but also on account of Rivera’s more public‑facing, large‑format practice. Both volumes are simple concrete boxes resting on pilotis, with large glazed expanses. The rectangular windows, some of which extend from floor to ceiling and across the width of the building, feature elegantly articulated custom metal grids, while the elevated sections allow for generous ground‑level porticos.
Inside both houses, the ceilings’ concrete slabs and clay panels are left unplastered, and only walls are stuccoed. Throughout, finishes are economical.
...." (bron: The Architectural Review)

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