In Praise of Caves: Organic Architecture Projects from Mexico

In Praise of Caves exhibition at the Noguchi Museum


The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City has a new exhibition opening today. Titled “In Praise of Caves: Organic Architecture Projects from Mexico by Carlos Lazo, Mathias Goeritz, Juan O’Gorman, and Javier Senosiain,” the exhibition explores the adaptation of natural structures to modern living, the practical and environmental benefits of moving underground, and how humanity might reconnect with the essential happiness of living in concert with nature. The organic architecture projects and site-specific installations included in this exhibition reflect a model for creating a relationship between the human-made and natural environments, as conceived by these four architects at various times in the middle of the twentieth century. From our current perspective as the climate crisis accelerates, the visions of these artist-architects is quite relevant.

cave architecture exhibition at the Noguchi Museum
Architect and painter Juan O’Gorman (1905–1982) and his wife, botanist Helen O’Gorman (Fowler), play chess in their
cave home Casa O’Gorman in Pedregal, Mexico City, c. 1959. Photo credit: Eliot Elisofon / The LIFE Picture Collection / Shutterstock, reproduced here courtesy of the Noguchi Museum.

The title In Praise of Caves is inspired by a chapter of that name in Bernard Rudofsky‘s “The Prodigious Builders: Notes Towards a Natural History of Architecture” (1977). In this book, Rudofsky argues that there is nothing primitive or backwards about living in caves, and he introduces readers to examples of ancient and contemporary cave dwelling all over the world. His belief expressed in the book was that humans will eventually have to move back underground, once we have filled and despoiled the surface of our Earth.

A little about the architects featured in this exhibition:

Mathias Goeritz (b. 1915, Danzig, Germany; d. 1990, Mexico City, Mexico) was a German-born painter, sculptor, architect, teacher, and theorist. Goeritz developed a principle of “emotional architecture,” advocating for the construction of expressive spaces designed to encourage collaboration, freedom, creativity, and empathy.

Carlos Lazo (b. 1914, Distrito Federal, Mexico; d. 1955, Distrito Federal, Mexico) was an architect and public official who, from 1952–55, served as the head of the Secretariat of Communications and Public Work (SCOP), overseeing state infrastructure projects. He created a series of habitable subterranean spaces, which he called “Civilized Caves.”

Juan O’Gorman (b. 1905, Coyoacán, Mexico; d. 1982, Mexico City, Mexico) was an architect and artist, known for his early functionalist and later organic architecture and often surrealist paintings, murals, and mosaics that had nationalistic and anti-fascist themes. O’Gorman was committed to the integration of art and architecture, and, along with his friend and collaborator Diego Rivera, to creating a vernacular Mexican architecture.

Javier Senosiain (b. 1948, Mexico City, Mexico) is a renowned architect and historian. He is the founder and principal of Arquitectura Orgánica (Organic Architecture) in Mexico City, and teaches an Architectural Design and Theory Workshop at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. A pioneer of organic architecture, he has devoted his research and practice to exploring the relationship between habitable space and nature.

The exhibition runs from today, October 19, 2022, through February 26, 2023. To get more information about visiting the Noguchi Museum, check out their website here.

In Praise of Caves exhibition at the Noguchi Museum
Detail of Javier Senosiain’s model for “El Nido de Quetzalcóatl,” (1998–2007).
Model fabricated by Enrique Cabrera. Copyright: Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica, image reproduced courtesy of the Noguchi Museum.
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