Architecture is anything but frozen

For more than 10 years, the Big Enchilada has occupied the San Antonio skyline with an unmistakable silhouette created by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta — with its bold design, the Central library is among the most interesting looking buildings in the world.

“You look at the Main Library here, and through the use of very primary forms — the cube, the sphere, the triangle — `Legorreta` has made a very, in some ways, straightforward composition,” says Blue Star Contemporary Art Center Executive Director Bill FitzGibbons.

Throughout February and March, Legorreta’s works will be on display at Blue Star for the exhibition Frozen Music II, where the conceptual process of his work is revealed through architectural drawings and photographs.

It’s been nearly three years since Blue Star’s first Frozen Music exhibition, (whose title was aptly culled from a quote by well-versed writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “I call architecture frozen music.”) FitzGibbons wants Frozen Music to grow into an ongoing series. “As an example, last spring the American Institute of Architects had a big national conference here. During the time the conference was here we’re the only organization in town that had architectural exhibits, and we turned the project space over to the New York chapter of American Institute of Architects and they had a display of 20 young, emerging architects that were doing exciting stuff.”

With the help of UTSA school of architecture professors, FitzGibbons organized the first Frozen Music exhibition around the hand drawings of San Antonio architects. “I wanted to show even when an architect is sitting down talking to the client the first time `sketching` on napkins, to show the process that architects go through in bringing together their conceptions and ideas on architectural form and working with clients,” says

More than 40 San Antonio architects participated in the exhibition, which turned out to be one of the largest group shows ever hosted by Blue Star. “`The` architectural community really respected that, because too often they kind of get ignored through the bigger process of architectual designing and building, so the individuals were highlighted,” says FitzGibbons.

FitzGibbons’ respect for Legorreta, who he calls “one of the great architects of the 20th- and now 21st century,” extends not only to his work as a highly regarded architect but as an artist, as well. As a sculptor and an artist who has frequently worked on design-enhancement projects with architects, FitzGibbons considers architecture art, and with the series he hopes to bring the architectural work into the forefront of our city’s art community. In short, he would “like for people to be more cognizant of their environment.”

FitzGibbons believes the city has a strong architectural community, and as Blue Star gains a reputation for supporting architectural-based exhibitions more architects are approaching him with ideas for future exhibitions. Another installment of Frozen Music is already being planned for later in the year with the works of Emilio Ambasz — who designed the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s Lucile Halsell Conservatory. FitzGibbons hopes the series will “engage the public in a way that they can have more appreciation or knowledge of how architects get to that finished product.”

Legorreta is an excellent choice for Blue Star. His works appeal to the rich Mexican culture of the city and his innovative and ever-evolving design is allowing his unique flair to be showcased throughout the world.  

“What I think is a strong characteristic of Legorreta is his embracing of the Mexican culture — he has been inspired by ancient Aztec and Mayan architecture — unlike many American architects, who are timid about color, Ricardo celebrates color in his architecture,” says FitzGibbons. “He’s not afraid to use blazing reds and yellows and purples, which is very much part of the Mexican character.”

FitzGibbons doesn’t consider Legorreta’s work site-specific: “`He` has developed an architectural philosophy coming out of a certain proof that he feels is universial.” His work is adaptable to any environment his designs are featured, whether it’s Europe, South America, or the U.S. “I think what his philosophy would be more about is tapping into the indigenous culture of Mexico,” says FitzGibbons. “He’s tapping into a universal consciousness, so therefore any culture that his work finds itself in is speaking to that universal need.”

A notable example of Legorreta’s style can be found at the Marco Museum in Monterrey, where his design has created different spaces and atmospheres that elicit different vantage points with every visit for museum patrons.
Legorreta finds interesting ways to bring natural light into the museum. “It’s an adventure going into the building,” says FitzGibbons. As he observed during a walk-through of the museum, a blue wall would be splashed with light from a hidden skylight. Legorreta used a similar method in the design of the Central Library, where light seeps in from hidden areas thoughout the building.

With the show lasting well into mid-March, plans are already being made to incorporate the Legorreta exhibition into the Luminaria Arts Night, which falls on March 15. In addition to the exhibition, workshops, a gallery talk (scheduled for late February), the show will keep the folks at Blue Star busy the next few months. Blue Star’s added these programs since its creation of an educational program, which enables the exhibition to include workshops with teachers from San Antonio Independent School District and a possible creative union with UTSA’s school of architecture students.

FitzGibbons main goal for the Frozen Music series is to show the creative process that architects go through — with hopes that the art community can gain insight and a newfound appreciation for superb architecture through the series.


Frozen Music II: The Architecture of Ricardo Legorreta
6-9pm Jan 31

Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
116 Blue Star
(210) 227-6960