Ricardo Legorreta: Architect whose work included the Fashion and Textile Museum


Blending modernism with vernacular influences, textures and vibrant colours from his native Mexico, Ricardo Legorreta helped put Mexican architecture on the world map. His works brightened up his nation's often smog-grey capital, Mexico City, as well as towns and cities in the south-western US states that were part of Mexico until the mid-19th Century – California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Initially inspired by his modernist and European-influenced mentors José Villagrá* and Luis Barragán, Legorreta, while retaining traditional Mexican art and architecture as his spiritual base, found his work reflecting the increasing globalisation of his craft. In the end he became far more prolific – and internationally recognised – than his great predecessors, designing banks, public buildings, hotels, colleges, museums and private homes around the world.

The "soul" of his work generally reflected the art and culture of his homeland; he incorporated the geometry of Aztec and Mayan pyramids, the vivid colours worn by Mexico's indigenous women; the imprint of the Spanish conquistadores, including their own massive influence from the Muslim Moors of North Africa.

Behind the fortress-like walls of many of his buildings he often used Moorish-style latticed moucharabieh windows, internal courtyards or Spanish colonial-type "stable-door windows" to let in air or light as needed in the often-glaring sun of Mexico and the southern US. "Light symbolises knowledge, creativity, imagination and spirituality," he once said.

Last October, the tall, patrician Legorreta was in Tokyo to receive from Prince Hitachi the prestigious Praemium Imperiale for architecture awarded by the Japan Art Association. He shared the stage with Anish Kapoor, who won the prize for sculpture, and Dame Judi Dench, honoured for theatre/film.

In 2003, Legorreta brought a flavour of Mexico to London with his design of the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, founded by Zandra Rhodes, who lives above it. For the sheer gall of its pink and ochre walls, the building attracts curious tourists from far beyond the realm of fashion.

Among his best-known works is the deep pink and yellow-fronted Camino Real hotel in Mexico City's Polanco district, which was designed to attract visitors to the 1968 Olympic Games in the city. Its dramatic façade and reputation as the place to see and be seen helped shift the centre of gravity of the capital away from the colonial centre around the famous main square. Legorreta followed it up with other Camino Real hotels, one in Cancun and another on a steep, wooded cliff outside the Mexican Pacific resort of Ixtapa, now called the Las Brisas hotel, featuring an elevator to the secluded private beach.

He designed the Sheraton hotel in Bilbao; the new Metropolitan Cathedral in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey, Mexico; parts of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar; and a remodelled Pershing Square in Los Angeles featuring a 10-storey, bright-purple bell tower. In Texas, with its large Mexican-American population, Legorreta brought his unique style to the San Antonio Central Library and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History whose central tower, with an "urban lantern" motif, has become a landmark beacon not only for the museum but for the city itself.

Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis was born in Mexico City in 1931. His father founded what would become one of the country's biggest banks, BancoMex, but young Ricardo became more interested in buildings than the money in them. From the late 1940s he studied architecture at the country's biggest university, UNAM, under Villagrán, at the time Mexico's best-known architect. After graduating, he worked for Villagrán's firm for 10 years and also came under the influence of Barragán.

In 1963, conscious that Mexico's history offered as much as Europe's in terms of art and architecture, he set up his own firm to follow his own path, nowadays called Legorreta & Legorreta and run by one of his sons, Victor.

After his first major commission in 1964, a car factory called Automex in which he included two pre-Columbian-style cone structures, Ricardo Legarreto said: "It was like an explosion in me, a rebellion against ... the foreign domination of my country. I felt like yelling 'Viva Mexico!' and 'Viva the Mexican worker'!" He reflected that passion for his people, including those who long pre-dated his own family's arrival on the continent, through all his work. Among the most famous private homes he designed were one for his friend and fellow Mexican, the Hollywood actor Ricardo Montalbá* in the Hollywood Hills, and another for Chicago philanthropist Cindy Pritzker, a renowned supporter of architects.

In 2000, Legorreta was awardedthe Gold Medal of the Washington-based American Institute of Architects (AIA), their highest award. He hadbeen due to speak in London in March this year until it was found that he had liver cancer.

Phil Davison

Ricardo Legorreta Vilchis, architect: born Mexico City 7 May 1931; married (divorced; three sons, three daughters); died Mexico City 30 December 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas