O’Gorman, Juan (1905–1982) By Santoyo-Orozco, Ivonne
Perhaps the best way to understand the Mexican architect and painter Juan O’Gorman is through his self-portrait of 1950 in which he depicts himself in multiple frames corresponding to his different occupations. Juan O’Gorman was born in Mexico City of Irish descent. He graduated in 1927 from the School of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and began his career working as a draughtsman in the studio of Obregón, Tarditi, and Villagrán García (1921–5), and, later on, as an architect for Carlos Obregón Santacilla (1925–8). At a very early age, O’Gorman designed the first functionalist houses in Mexico (1929), the most representative of this being the House-Studio of Diego Rivera (1931). For him, functionalism was to be understood as the tendency to design architecture as a work of engineering, which he understood as maximum efficiency and minimum maintenance. However, in time his designs moved towards an organic formalism influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudí, and Ferdinand Cheval, exemplified most explicitly in his house-studio in San Jeronimo (1951). Around the same time, he also designed the Central Library of the National Autonomous University Campus in the south of Mexico City, a piece that can be considered representative of O’Gorman’s various aesthetic interests: an efficiently organised slab, whose massive 4,000-sqm facade is a continuous stone and glass mosaic expressing a political and social history of Mexico.