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El Eco Experimental Museum

The artist Mathias Goeritz influenced an aesthetic transformation in Mexico when his avant-garde iconographies and socialist-inspired propaganda gradually broke out of the political sphere; these movements became synonymous with modernization, particularly through their explorations of space and spatial subjectivity. In 1953, Goeritz produced his first architectural work in Mexico City, the Experimental Museum el Eco, which became a manifesto of what he called “emotional architecture”. To carry out this sculpture-architecture experiment he gathered advice from architects Luis Barragán and Ruth Rivera Marín, two of the most prominent figures in the history of modern architecture in Mexico. The building reflects Goeritz expressionist and existentialist approach to public and private space as well as his interest in atmospheres and immersive experiences through its dramatic use of densities, depths, angles, colors, textures and other visual elements.

This museum was originally envisioned as a platform for developing autonomous processes of creation but also as one for public and academic discourses. The building’s design and construction are a testimony to the important role that improvisation played in the conception of this project; its design originally derived from a pictogram Goeritz drew of an imaginary museum and it was subsequently built from basic sketches which allowed a playful speculation of the building’s heights, depths and widths on site. Goeritz also designed the furniture inside the museum. One of these pieces is the famous chair Silla el Eco, whose design was originally attributed to Goeritz and Daniel Mont. However, according to numerous sources, there may have been many versions of this chair and more than one anonymous replica.

Against the spirit of functionalist movements still dominant in several practices and institutions at that time, El Eco anticipated the intense dialogue between architecture and art during the second half of the 20th century as well as the relevance of these debates in the design of public space. Retrospectively, it could be said that this museum constitutes a bridge of tension and resonance between techniques of abstraction and Plastic Integration. Nowadays, the museum continues to harbour a myriad of groups linked to diverse cultural expressions. In 2006 El Eco became part of UNAM’s museum network; since then, it works as an autonomous platform that renders a bottomless support for experimentation, freedom and contingency for related disciplines.

Project name Experimental Musem El Eco
Period 1953
Contributor Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mathias Goeritz and Daniel Mont
Location James Sullivan 43, San Rafael, 06470 Cuauhtémoc, CDMX