UTSA hosts Feb. 21 tribute to renowned Mexican architect who died at 80

Ricardo Legorreta

Renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, who died recently at age 80

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(Feb. 20, 2012) -- The UTSA College of Architecture, UTSA Mexico Center and the Instituto Cultural de México will host "Ricardo Legorreta Remembered," an evening of discussion and personal memories highlighting the career of the internationally renowned Mexican architect, who died in December at age 80. The event is free and open to the public.

>> Presented in conjunction with the City of San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs and the San Antonio Public Library, the tribute will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Durango Building Southwest Room (1.124) at the UTSA Downtown Campus. A reception will follow the event. Free parking will be available in UTSA lot D-3 under Interstate 35.

For more than five decades, Legorreta conceived and built works of architecture that became known around the world including the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico City, the MARCO Museum (El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey) and the San Antonio Central Library.

UTSA Department of Architecture faculty members Edward Burian and John Hertz will open the evening discussing the origins of Legorreta's work, the trajectory of his career and the significance of his designs. Davis Sprinkle of Sprinkle and Co. Architects, will offer his personal memories of the noted architect -- the result of a relationship that began more than 20 years ago when Legorreta collaborated with the San Antonio firms Sprinkle Robey Architects and Johnson-Dempsey & Associates to design the San Antonio Central Library. Harriett Romo, director of the UTSA Mexico Center; Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Ramiro Salazar of the San Antonio Public Library also will share remembrances. The evening will close with tributes and recollections from the audience.

Legorreta was a regionalist at his core, although he completed projects around the world in the late 20th century. His work was a fusion of both globalized principles of modern architecture and reinterpretations of local spatial types, such as the courtyard and arcade, local materials such as masonry and plaster, and his vibrant use of color from vernacular Mexican architecture. He was concerned with choreographing the spatial experience for the everyday users of his buildings. His outstanding professional career made him the recipient of several national and international awards including the 2000 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and Japan's prestigious Praemium Imperiale arts prize.

In 1991, during Nelson Wolff's term as mayor, the City of San Antonio announced a juried competition for the design of a new downtown library. Davis Sprinkle, then a promising young architect, seized the opportunity and called Legorreta to see if he would consider teaming up for the competition. Sprinkle had never met Legorreta -- who was then Mexico's most prominent architect -- and was pleasantly surprised that Legorreta even took his call, much less the fact that Legorreta accepted his offer to collaborate.

Their team's design won the city council's unanimous vote of approval, resulting in the 240,000-square-foot, six-story library, which opened in 1995 and is organized around a multi-story atrium. Cherished by locals and visitors alike, the brightly colored Central Library remains a striking element of San Antonio's downtown skyline -- a fitting tribute to this legendary architectural designer.

For more information, contact Nicole Chavez, UTSA College of Architecture, 210-458-3121; Oliva Lopez, UTSA Mexico Center, 210-458-2923; or Instituto Cultural de México, 210-227-0123.