On the 60th anniversary of its last major survey of modern architecture in Latin America, The Museum of Modern Art returns its focus to the region with Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980, a complex overview of the positions, debates, and architectural creativity from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego, from Mexico to Cuba to the Southern Cone between 1955 and the early 1980s. On view March 29 through July 19, 2015, Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980 is organized by Barry Bergdoll, Curator, and Patricio del Real, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA; Jorge Francisco Liernur, Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Carlos Eduardo Comas, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil; with the assistance of an advisory committee from across Latin America.
In 1955 The Museum of Modern Art staged Latin American Architecture since 1945, a landmark exhibition highlighting a decade of architectural achievements across Latin America. Latin America in Construction focuses on the subsequent quarter of a century, a period of self-questioning, exploration, and complex political shifts in all the countries included: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. During these years Latin American countries created startling works of architecture that have never been fully granted their place in accounts of the history of modern architecture, which is dominated by architects in Europe and the United States. The 1955 exhibition featured the result of a single photographic campaign, with no original materials on display or loans from the designers featured; by contrast, Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955–1980 brings together more than 500 original works, materials that have never before been brought together and, for the most part, have never been exhibited even in their home countries. It proposes a complex historical reading of some of the key issues of the period, from the role of the public sector in providing housing, to the conception of new types of campus design, to the response of architecture and urbanism to the concepts of “development,” or the need for architecture to serve as part of the politics of modernization and industrialization—whether seen in capitalist models or in the communist experiment of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, the latter featured in rarely seen photographs.
The exhibition features architectural drawings and models, vintage photographs, and films from the period collected over the last three years from architecture and film archives, universities, and architecture offices throughout the region. Highlighting the extent to which the exhibition contributes to new interpretations of Latin American architecture of the period, several research teams—in addition to the invited curators—have worked over the last two years to develop analytical models and compilations of rarely seen film footage. These historical materials will be displayed alongside newly commissioned models intended to highlight the spatial invention of some of the period’s master works of architecture, and to underscore the exploration of new forms of public space. Large-scale models of key structures have been commissioned for this exhibition from the workshops of the Catholic University of Chile, along with models of buildings and their landscapes fabricated by the University of Miami. A special feature of both the exhibition and the catalogue is a group of new photographs by the Brazilian photographer Leonardo Finotti.
While the focus will be on the period of 1955 to 1980 throughout most of Latin America, the exhibition is introduced by an ample prelude on the preceding three decades of architectural developments in the region, with a gallery of original films created from vintage footage by Los Angeles-based director and producer Joey Forsyte. Drawn from the filmmaker’s archival research across 15 countries and dozens of sources, the films present the transformation of key capital cities in the region, the construction of two landmark university campuses in Mexico City and Caracas, and the development of the new Brazilian capital at Brasilia. Architects such as Lina Bo Bardi, Lucio Costa, and Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil; Juan O’Gorman, Mario Pani, Luis Barragán, and Teodoro González de León in Mexico; Mario Roberto Alvarez and Clorindo Testa in Argentina; Ricardo Porro, Fernando Salinas and Mario Coyula in Cuba; Henry Klumb in Puerto Rico; Carlos Raúl Villanueva and Jesús Tenreiro in Venezuela; Rogelio Salmona and Germán Samper in Colombia; Eladio Dieste and Nelson Bayardo in Uruguay; and Emilio Duhart and the School of Valparaiso in Chile, to name but a few, met these challenges with formal, urbanist, and programmatic innovation—much of it relevant still to the challenges of our own period, in which Latin America is again providing exciting and challenging architecture and urban responses to the ongoing issues of modernization and development, though in vastly different economic and political contexts than those considered in this major historical reevaluation.
The exhibition is accompanied by two major publications: a richly illustrated catalogue and an anthology of primary texts translated from Spanish and Portuguese.