IN MEMORY OF RICARDO LEGORRETA
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History offers memorial condolences to the family and the company of Ricardo Legorreta. The visionary architect’s playfully practical design for the Museum’s campus (completed in 2009) has established not only a landmark addition to the Fort Worth Cultural District but also a beacon of learning, entertainment, and enlightenment for the world’s community of progressive museums.
Ricardo Legorreta died at 80 in his native Mexico City on Dec. 30, 2011.
A consistent standout among approximately a dozen architects considered during 2005 for the Fort Worth Museum assignment, Legorreta impressed the Board of Directors and the administration with his combination of efficient understanding and artistic aspirations. “He gave us a conversation about it, rather than a picture,” as Museum President Van A. Romans has recalled, hailing Legorreta’s generous willingness to suggest solutions to the Museum’s need to grow, rather than to seek an immediate commitment.
Legorreta’s very career was its own best recommendation, with such accomplishments as a Gold Medalist citation for 2000 from the American Institute of Architects in addition to such benchmark projects as Mexico City’s Camino Real Hotel and a color-splashed remodeling of Pershing Square in Los Angeles. As early as 1980, the historian–critic Muriel Emmanuel had written in Contemporary Architects: “Legorreta’s architecture has been consistently good, and it has evolved because he has never regarded architecture from the perspective of a businessman… [H]e has always remained a dedicated artist.”
The selection of the artist’s family-based company, Legorreta + Legorreta (est.: 1960) for the Fort Worth Museum project made Legorreta and his son, Victor Legorreta, familiar figures in our city throughout the development and building processes of 2006-2009. Both Ricardo and Victor Legorreta spoke enthusiastically of the challenges of bringing the Museum of Science & History to a prominence on a par with the acknowledged architectural masterworks of Louis I. Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum, Tadao Ando’s Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and Philip Johnson’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
“Our design acknowledges these great neighbors,” Victor Legorreta said in 2007, “but still is very human and easy to use. This [Museum of Science & History] is the center of the community for kids, and we want to express that in the architecture.”
Ricardo Legorreta asserted an original architectural statement, of course. His central tower design with its Urban Lantern motif (consistent with his larger body of work), created not only a symbolic beacon for the Museum itself, but also a recognizable guidepost for the city at large. Said Legorreta: “Light symbolizes knowledge, creativity, imagination, and spirituality.”
Legorreta’s antic but subtle sense of humor also led him to affirm a kinship among Cultural Distrist museums by quoting or paraphrasing elements of its neighbors’ signature designs: A sly nod, here, to the Kimbell’s vaulted ceilings, and there to the Modern Art Museum’s celebrated reflecting pool; to say nothing of a tower design that echoes and streamlines further the 1930s Moderne style of the nearby Will Rogers Memorial Center. Legorreta also positioned the Museum’s courtyard to commune directly with the next-door National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame. The Legorretas, as a result, accomplished vastly more than an addition to the skyine; the design has heightened to sense of unified community within the Cultural District at large.
Writes Victor Legorreta of his father’s passing: “His spirit will always be present in the walls of the Fort Worth Museum. They represent his love for a community that always received him so well… The only way I can think to move ahead without him is to keep on living the way he showed us – with passion, dedication, and love for life.”
Victor Legorreta’s reference to “the walls of the Fort Worth Museum” is significant. Ricardo Legorreta anchored his philosophy of architecture in the wall-based tribal architecture of Ancient Mexico, minimizing the influence of column-based architecture of the European fashion that had prevailed in Mexico since the postwar 1940s. He stated his central interests in terms of “the wall culture of the Aztecs, and the therapeutic value of the sun.” This devotion to natural light, as a consequence, called for the application of bright colors, grand and inviting spaces among the walls, and geometric, lens-like openings to focus and intensify the effects of sunlight.
The result of Ricardo Legorreta’s combined monumental and playful ambitions, an $80 million-plus campus for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, covers 250,000 square feet at 1600 Gendy Street. The Architectural Record once had characterized the former structure, a 1954-model schoolhouse sprawl since removed, as “an ugly duckling among architectural swans.” The Legorretas’ design has transformed the sweep of the Cultural District skyline to stretch all the way to Montgomery Street in the geographic realm – and into infinity in the vaster realm of spirited learning for generations beyond counting.
Learn more about the Museum of Science and History’s architecture and the legacy of Ricardo Legorreta.