October 10 - 31, 2001



Reconfiguring the essential in architecture

by José Manuel Springer

Mauricio Rodriguez Anza has devised an architecture that separates the program from the façade. In his architectural drawings he has rendered buildings as glass houses, reminiscent of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 
glass box in Barcelona, where structure and frame are evident features, both within and without while remaining autonomous from the rest of the quarters. He perceives that this idea also has ancient roots in the architecture of the Maya, specifically in the layered construction of the square known as the Nun's Quadrangle in Uxmal, where facades were designed as separate units from the underlying building.

Each structure in Rodríguez Anza's current exhibit Thresholds is set on spare, broad, deserted spaces evokes Richard Diebenkorn's formscapes or Gunther Gerzso's abstract, geometric landscapes.  The architectural renderings in this exhibition have to do mostly with syntax and structure, basic two-dimensional graphics, where color provides a vocabulary substituting decorative motifs.

The idiosyncratic quality of Rodriguez Anza's approach arises from several formative sources, which include the influences assimilated during his years as a furniture designer and his immersion in the works of Mexican masters Luis Barragán, Mathias Goeritz and muralist David A. Siqueiros, which complemented his studies of the Mayan Puuc style and the classic period of Olmec architecture. Among the first important strides he took toward the development of his personal aesthetic was a series of cabinets, in which a less is more approach was applied to the exterior panels and doors. These understated pieces rigorously respond to a bare aesthetic in which Rodriguez Anza achieves an intimation of towers of Miesian grandeur. The finish of the red cedar-wood doors was decorated by a row of circle inlays underlining the door top and center jam, in accordance to Mayan observance of the principle of symmetry. During the early 90's Rodriguez Anza's approached the chair problem through this emerging architectural synthesis, resulting in chairs as studies in form and structure. Combining slightly contorted polished mahogany backs, with black leather linings, armrests made of smoked steel and Corbusian stilts as legs, the overall achievement were light, simple self-evident structures, imbued with sobriety notwithstanding his use of primary colors accents.

Interestingly the latest architectonic renditions seem to borrow from the experiences in furniture design, taking the solutions to sublime levels of simplicity. As Barragán, master of integration of the archaic and the popular forms with the modern program, Rodriguez Anza has sought architectural solutions that turn the public building into a visual landmark compatible with the most basic of visual forms: the line, the square, the triangle, and their Pythagorean  evolutions: the cube and the prism. In his process of assimilation of different modes -from the Bauhaus style of the German émigré Mathias Goeritz to the minimalists such as Richard Meier- Rodriguez Anza has developed a personal style which focuses on the façade as a discrete problem on its own.

The development of his façade syntax began in 1994 when he was commissioned to design a wall wrapping for the lobby of an office building in Mexico City: this became known as Installation America, a permanent structure which embraces three elevator cars and isolates them from the building's adjacent glass façade. It was then that Rodriguez Anza realized the creative potential of designing structures detached from the rest of the architectural program.

As with his furniture, this 45 foot-high half-cylinder proposal projected an imposing autonomy. The design called for the use of light-gauge steel sheet metal, affixed with disks and ribs, creating the sense of an aircraft fuselage in a futuristic movie set, finely crafted and oddly enough massive and protective like a pre-historic monolith.

Contrary the trends of Le Corbusier, Rodriguez Anza has left nothing to whim. The use of Cartesian coordinates, the linear development of the surfaces and volumes of tectonic masses reveals a cold rationality. The rendering of these frames and structures, a complex of mitres and arrises, endow the unit with a fleeting, tenuous reality, an ethereal weightlessness and transparency.  These characteristics constitute Rodriguez Anza's core interests:  the spiritual and emblematic and associative matrix he aspires to in public building design.