Architecture On Film | La Casa Estudio Diego Riviera, Mexico City

 

INTRODUCTION


When people visit Mexico City, they often go to Frida Kahlo’s former home, la Casa Azul which was turned into a museum in 1958 by  her husband Diego Riviera when he donated the home and its contents in Frida's honour. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunity to take any photos when I was there, because the place is constantly packed with tourists. Even though it was totally worth it, you have to stand in line an hour to get in and my Pentax and I didn’t stand a chance again’t the hoard of tourists jumping one in front of the other to take a picture in front of the sumptuous cobalt blue walls of la Casa Azul. 

I wasn’t too disappointed because I had other plans in mind. What I realllyyyy wanted to shoot, was Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera’s second home, la Casa Estudio Diego Riviera, which in my opinion, is an architectural masterpiece as well as a major symbol of the couple’s badass-ness. Luckily, the place wasn’t as popular as Casa Azul (no one was there, literally) and I had all the time in the world to shoot what was once the home of these two legends.

 
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FUNCTIONALIST ARCHITECTURE & MEXICAN INFLUENCE

The house was designed by architect and muralist Juan O’Gorman in the 1930’s specifically for the two artists, with two separate buildings for each, united by a drawbridge between the two. The building is a great example of functionalism, an architectural movement which emerged at the wake of World War I and was part of the modernism wave. The ideas of this movement were largely inspired by the need to build a new and better world for the people, as  expressed by the social and political movements of Europe at the time. 

Functionalist architecture is often linked with the ideas of socialism, ideas that Kahlo and Riviera believed in deeply, to the extent that when Trotsky was condemned to death by Russia,  the Mexican government offered Trotsky refuge and protection and the couple invited him to live with them permentantly.

The bold industrial aesthetics of the building mixed with traditional Mexican forms & colours form a beautiful and intelligent combination. And how stunning is that cacti fence.

Why two separate buildings you ask? In fact, the two artist’s relationship was quite tumultuous. And Diego Riviera was kind of an asshole, who constantly cheated on Kahlo, even though he desperately loved her. So they decided to each have their own separate house, yet they cared enough for each other to remain close to one another. Love-hate relationship, you know. 

 
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two spirits drunk on tequila

What I really loved about visiting the twin houses is that it didn’t feel like a museum at all. The house almost felt abandoned. Untouched. 

Most rooms were empty, but some pieces of Riviera and Kahlo’s art were on display, including a collection of Riviera’s Papier-Mâché cartoneria figures of humans , skeletons, and animals.

I felt like I could almost feel their souls just hanging out there, having a fight or a party drunk on tequila (they looooved their tequila!).  I felt Frida’s strength and spirit in the room and I even stood there a few minutes to hopefully soak up some of the qualities I admire in her. It is said that people from around the world use to come to Mexico City to visit Diego Riviera, who was way more famous for his art than Frida, but people stayed because of her. She was captivating. One of a kind. And the life of the party. 

 
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