Juan O'Gorman

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Juan O'Gorman
Juan O'Gorman.jpg
BornJuly 6, 1905
DiedJanuary 17, 1982(1982-01-17) (aged 76)
EducationAcademy of San Carlos, Art and Architecture School at National Autonomous University
MovementFunctionalism, Mexican muralism
Patron(s)Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo

Juan O'Gorman (July 6, 1905 – January 17, 1982) was a Mexican painter and architect.


Juan O'Gorman was born in Coyoacán, then a village to the south of Mexico City and now a borough of the Federal District, to an Irish immigrant father, Cecil Crawford O'Gorman (a painter himself) and a Mexican mother. In the 1920s he studied architecture at the Academy of San Carlos, the Art and Architecture school at the National Autonomous University. He became a well known architect, worked on the new Bank of Mexico building, and under the influence of Beto Kerstetter introduced modern functionalist architecture to Mexico City with his 1929 and 1932 houses at San Ángel.[citation needed]

San Ángel houses[edit]

In 1929, Juan O'Gorman purchased a plot containing two tennis courts in Mexico City's San Ángel colonia. On the plot, O'Gorman constructed a small house and studio intended for use by his father, now known as the Cecil O'Gorman House. The building's forms were strongly influenced by the work of Le Corbusier, whose theories of architecture O'Gorman studied.[1]

O'Gorman dubbed the house first functionalist structure in Latin America.[2]

Diego Rivera, a contemporary of O'Gorman, impressed with the design of the Cecil O'Gorman House, commissioned the architect to design a home for him and Frida Kahlo on an adjacent plot. The house was built in a similar functionalist style from 1931 to 32.


In 1932, Narciso Bassols, then Secretary of Education, appointed O'Gorman to the position of Head of Architectural Office of the Ministry of Public Education, where he went on to design and build 26 elementary schools in Mexico City. The schools were built with the philosophy of "eliminating all architectural style and executing constructions technically."[citation needed]

After 6 years of functionalist projects, O'Gorman turned away from strict functionalism later in life and worked to develop an organic architecture, combining the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright with traditional Mexican constructions.

Later work[edit]

His paintings often treated Mexican history, landscape, and legends. A mural commission in Pátzcuaro, Michoacan resulted in the huge "La historia de Michoacán" in the Biblioteca Pública Gertrudis Bocanegra in a former church.[3] He painted the murals in the Independence Room in Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle, and the huge murals of his own 1952 Central Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, designed with Gustavo Saavedra and Juan Martínez de Velasco.

In 1959, together with fellow artists, Raúl Anguiano, Jesús Guerrero Galván, and Carlos Orozco Romero, O'Gorman founded the militant Unión de Pintores y Grabadores de México (Mexican Painters and Engravers Union).

He died on January 17, 1982, as a result of suicide. Authorities believe the artist grew despondent after being diagnosed with a heart ailment which curtailed his work. O'Gorman, who was 76 years old, was found dead at his home.

Central Library at Ciudad Universitaria (UNAM)[edit]

O'Gorman's mural Historical Representation of Culture on the Central Library at UNAM

Juan O'Gorman's most celebrated work due to its creativity, construction technique, and dimensions, are the four thousand square meters murals covering the four faces of the building of the Central Library at Ciudad Universitaria at UNAM. These murals are mosaics made from millions of colored stones that he gathered all around Mexico in order to be able to obtain the different colors he needed. The north side pictures Mexico's pre-Hispanic past and the south facade its colonial one, while the east wall depicts the contemporary world, and the west shows the university and contemporary Mexico.[citation needed]

"From the beginning, I had the idea of making mosaics of colored stones in the walls of the collections, with a technique in which I was already well experienced. With these mosaics the library would be different from the other buildings of Ciudad Universitaria, and it would be given a particular Mexican character."[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Personal Debate of Juan O'Gorman". MAS CONTEXT. 2015-12-17. Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  2. ^ Carranza, Luis E.; Lara, Fernando Luiz (2015-01-05). Modern Architecture in Latin America: Art, Technology, and Utopia. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-76297-8.
  3. ^ Jolly, Jennifer, Creating Pátzcuaro, Creating Mexico: Art, Tourism, and Nation Building Under Lázaro Cárdenas. Austin: University of Texas Press 2018. ISBN 978-1477-314203
  4. ^ "Creación del mural". Biblioteca Central UNAM.


  • Burian, Edward R. (1997). "The Architecture of Juan O'Gorman: Dichotomy and Drift". Modernity and the Architecture of Mexico. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70852-1.
  • Burian, Edward R. (2005). "Modernity and Nationalism: Juan O'Gorman and Post-Revolutionary Architecture in Mexico, 1920-1960". In LeJeune, Jean-François (ed.). Cruelty & Utopia: Cities and Landscapes of Latin America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 210–223. ISBN 1-56898-489-8.
  • O'Gorman, Juan. Juan O'Gorman. Inv. y coord. documental Ida Rodríguez Prampolini, Olga Sáenz y Elizabeth Fuentes. México: UNAM-Coordinación de Humanidades.
  • O'Gorman. México: Grupo Financiero Bital. 1999.
  • Prampolini, Ida Rodríguez (1983). Juan O'Gorman, arquitecto y pintor. México: UNAM-Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas.
  • Frasier, Valerie (2000). Building the New World: Modern Architecture in Latin America. Verso. ISBN 1-85984-787-0.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooke, Catherine Nixon (2016). Juan O'Gorman: A Confluence of Civilizations. Trinity University Press.

External links[edit]