Laboratory of Architecture/Fernando Romero

The first monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of Fernando Romero and his Mexico City-based practice, LAR (Laboratory of Architecture), will be on view in the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh from February 28-May 31, 2009. Organized by Raymund Ryan, Carnegie Museum of Art curator of architecture, Laboratory of Architecture/Fernando Romero presents innovative designs for two dozen projects together with large-scale photographs and analysis of Mexico City that help to situate the work in context.


Educated at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, Romero (born 1971) worked from 1997 to 2000 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, for Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), where he was project leader for the Casa da Música in Porto, Portugal (completed 2005). In 1999, Romero established LCM (Laboratorio de la Ciudad de México) in Mexico City as an architectural practice, a studio to investigate urban phenomena, and an organizer of cultural events. Romero’s principal architectural activities are now carried out through LAR (Laboratory of Architecture), located opposite the home of Mexico’s greatest architect, Luis Barragán (1902–1988).


“Mexico has long had a key role in the visual arts,” says Ryan. “Painters, muralists, photographers, and architects such as Barragán contributed greatly to Modernism and to a discussion of how nations might develop economically and culturally. Fernando is a leading figure in the discussion today of how to apply advanced architectural thinking to the needs of contemporary society.”


Visitors to Laboratory of Architecture/Fernando Romero will first encounter a sequence of projected images of Mexico City, one of the world’s most populous conurbations, by photographer Adam Wiseman, together with still images by photographer Pablo Lopez of sites where Romero is working. The innovative research conducted by Romero and his colleagues on Mexico City (published in 2000 as ZMVM —Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México) and on the contentious border between Mexico and the United Stated (published in 2008 as Hyperborder) is graphically re-presented in this section of the exhibition.


From this research corridor, visitors will proceed to adjacent galleries to discover products of the architect’s investigation and thought process. Models of two dozen projects are gathered into four categories: Orthogonal, Non-Orthogonal, Organic, and Communal. Orthogonal includes sleek rectilinear pavilions that reinterpret the classic Modernist glass house, and an ambitious master plan for Mexico City’s Polanco district. Non-Orthogonal includes more complex crystalline shapes, some functioning as bridges—as in the case of Museum Bridge Mexico/USA—to link disconnected terrains both literally and metaphorically.


Screens of translucent mesh will be inserted into the Heinz Architectural Center galleries to evoke the geometries of Romero’s work—diagonal screens in the case of Non-Orthogonal and a womb-like envelope for Organic, the largest volume. Most of the models on display will be made from acrylic and illuminated from below through translucent bases. “These glowing objects may evoke forms in incubation,” says Ryan. “Visitors should sense architects testing a range, or constellation, of spatial and structural ideas,” from domestic to institutional and cultural programs.


Organic includes several museum proposals, both for Mexico and abroad, with internal sequences of non-orthogonal space expanding upward and outward to create expressive icons. Typically the ground or public realm is sculpted to extend inside these radical new forms. Evolving designs for the Soumaya Museum, an important collection of 20th-century art and part of Romero’s Polanco master plan, are represented here by a table of many working models that bring the experimental nature of the architect’s studio into the galleries.


Finally, Communal introduces visitors to projects in less-affluent parts of Mexico City, neighbourhoods where Romero and his colleagues aim to augment public space through their customary exploration of geometry and a more complexly inhabited ground plane. “In these translations of abstract ideals to the realities of Mexico City,” says Ryan, “this young generation of Mexican architects is contributing to a culture that is increasingly globalized and hopefully democratic. Dissolving borders and building bridges, Romero’s buildings incorporate a new sense of interconnectedness.”


The architect’s lecture takes place on Friday, February 27, 2009 at 6:00pm, in which Fernando Romero will discuss the work of his practice LAR (Laboratory of Architecture), his analysis of Mexico City, and the design strategies behind complex projects in Mexico, the United States, and China. The lecture will be followed by a reception.


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