The new El Eco Experimental Museum in Mexico City begins its activities, that is, its experiments, with the architectural work of its own building. This work was understood as an example of an architecture whose main function is emotion.
Art in general, and naturally also architecture, is a reflection of the spiritual state of man in his time. But there is the impression that the modern architect, individualized and intellectual, is sometimes exaggerating —perhaps because he has lost close contact with the community—, wanting to emphasize too much the rational part of architecture. The result is that the man of the 20th century feels crushed by so much “functionalism”, by so much logic and utility within modern architecture. It looks for a way out, but neither the external aestheticism understood as “formalism”, nor the organic regionalism, nor that dogmatic confusionism have faced in depth the problem that the man —creator or receiver— of our time aspires to something more than a nice, nice and adequate house. He asks – or will have to ask one day – for architecture and its modern means and materials, a spiritual elevation; Simply put: an emotion, as it was given in its time by the architecture of the pyramid, that of the Greek temple, that of the Romanesque or Gothic cathedral – or even that of the Baroque palace. Only by receiving true emotions from architecture can man consider it again as an art.
Leaving the conviction that our time is full of high spiritual concerns, THE ECO wants to be no more than an expression of these, aspiring – not so consciously, but almost automatically – to plastic integration to cause modern man maximum emotion.
The terrain of El ECO is small, but based on walls 7 to 11 m high, a long corridor that narrows (also raising the floor and lowering the ceiling) at the end, an attempt has been made to make the impression of a greater depth. The wooden planks on the floor of this corridor follow the same trend, narrowing more and more, ending almost at one point. At this end point of the corridor, visible from the main entrance, a sculpture is projected to be placed: a SCREAM, which must have its ECO on a “grisaille” mural of approximately 100 m2, possibly obtained by the very shadow of the sculpture, which must take place on the main wall of the great room.
No doubt —from a functional point of view— space was lost in the construction of a large patio, but this was necessary to complete the excitement once obtained from the entrance. It should also be used for outdoor sculpture exhibitions. It should make the impression of a small and mysterious closed square, dominated by an immense cross that forms the only window-door.
If inside a high, black wall, detached from the other walls and the ceiling, it has to give the real sensation of an exaggerated height outside of “human measure”, in the courtyard an even much higher wall was missing, understood as Sculptural element, yellow in color, which —like a ray of sunlight— entered the complex, in which there are no other colors than white and gray.
In the Eco experiment, plastic integration was not understood as a program, but in an absolutely natural sense. It was not a question of superimposing paintings or sculptures on the building, as is usually done with cinema posters or with carpets placed from the balconies of the palaces, but it was necessary to understand the architectural space as a large sculptural element, without falling into the romanticism of Gaudí or in German or Italian empty neoclassicism.
Sculpture, such as the Serpent in the courtyard, had to become an almost functional architectural construction (with openings for the ballet) —without ceasing to be sculpture— linking and giving an accent of restless movement to the smooth walls. There is almost no 90 ° link on the ground floor of the building. Even some walls are thin on one side and wider on the opposite. This strange and almost imperceptible asymmetry that is observed in the construction of any face, in any tree, in any living being has been sought. There are no nice curves or sharp vertices: the total was done in the same place, without exact planes. Architect, bricklayer and sculptor were the same person. I repeat that all this architecture is an experiment. It does not want to be more than this. An experiment in order to create again, within modern architecture, psychic emotions to man, without falling into an empty and theatrical decorativism. It wants to be the expression of a free will of creation, which – without denying the values of “functionalism” – tries to subdue them under a modern spiritual conception.
The idea of EL ECO was born from the disinterested enthusiasm of some men who wanted to give Mexico the first “experimental museum” open to the artistic concerns of the current world. The architects Luis Barragán and Ruth Rivera helped with valuable advice. A great stimulus also came from the students of the “visual education” courses at the Guadalajara School of Architecture. We should thank all of them, and also the engineers Francisco Hernández Macedo, Víctor Guerrero and Rafael Benítez, the painters Carlos Mérida and Rufino Tamayo, the musician Lan Adomian, the masons and painters, the plumbers and many other workers. All of them spent their time there, helping with advice or direct interventions when necessary. I think that, for them, it was not wasted time either.
Originally published in 1953