Spanish and Mexican architect Félix Candela is widely recognized as one of the most prominent figures in 20th century architecture. His innovative experiments with reinforced concrete produced iconic buildings deemed cascarones, or 'shell structures', such as the Pavilion of Cosmic Rays at UNAM, Mexico City (1951); the Chapel Lomas de Cuernavaca, Cuernavaca (1958); Los Manantiales Restaurant, Xochimilco (1958); and the Palace of Sports for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
This exhibition roots Félix Candela (1910-1997) as one of the most prolific architects of the 20th century in his advanced geometric designs and lasting influence in contemporary architecture. It originated through the research of scholar Juan Ignacio del Cueto and is curated by the architectural theorist and designer Alexander Eisenschmidt. The exhibition spotlights Félix Candela’s Concrete Shells through photographs, architectural models, and plans, as well as archival material from his time as a professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago from 1971 to 1978.
Candela exiled to Mexico
Every work of art is an interpretation of the world, of what you are thinking; a realization of your perception which creates and attempts a different world. In the end, a work of art is merely an offering to art.
Mexican-Spanish architect Félix Candela (Jan 27, 1910 – Dec 7, 1997) was known for redefining the role of the architect in relation to structural problems, and played a crucial role in the development of new structural forms of concrete. His famous experimentation with concrete gave rise to projects like the Los Manantiales restaurant in the Xochimilco area of Mexico City and the Cosmic Rays Pavilion for the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
How many lives does a great work of architecture have? The first begins when it is built and inhabited, judged based on the quality of life it provides for its residents. The second comes generations later when it becomes historically significant and perhaps its original function no longer suits the demands of society. The value of such buildings is that they inform us about the past and for that reason their conservation is necessary.
However, in Latin America, there are countless cases of buildings of great architectural value that are in tragic states of neglect and deterioration. Seven such examples are:
Based on an application of math and geometry in the study of Mexican architect Félix Candela's work, the workshop sought to "put form in crisis and take it to its maximum expression."
“Concrete has the ability to be primitive and technological, massive and levitating, to combine the properties of steel with those of mud,” says Rowan Moore in his list of The 10 best concrete buildings created for The Guardian. Through examples spanning three continents, Moore unites old standbys with unexpected wonders, all of which show the varied possibilities inherent in mixing water, aggregate, and cement. In a list that incorporates examples from Classical times to the present, Moore establishes concrete’s unique ability to adapt to different times, styles, applications, and treatments.
Examples by Le Corbusier, Álvaro Siza, Lina Bo Bardi, and Marcel Breuer demonstrate that concrete is anything but workaday or utilitarian. Moore’s list affirms that a material simultaneously strong and light, durable, sustainable, and fire-resistant, can scarcely be considered anything short of miraculous. Of course, ten buildings can only provide an abridged version of concrete’s possibilities, and Moore cheekily apologizes for some of the obvious omissions. Check out the full list here.
With the design for Los Manantiales, Felix Candela’s experimental form finding gave rise to an efficient, elegant, and enduring work of structural art. Comprised of four intersecting hypars, a strikingly thin roof surface creates a dramatic dining space. Built as Candela was establishing an international reputation as the foremost shell building, he demonstrated to the world his masterful combination of artistry and technical virtuoso.
LocationMexico City, Mexico
ReferencesCosmic Rays Pavilion