The 11th Docomomo biennial conference took place in Mexico from the 24th – 29th August 2010. Docomomo is an acronym for Documenting Modern Movement Buildings, which is what the Docomomo membership is involved in worldwide. Mexico city proved a very interesting destination, and we all became quickly immersed not only in Modernist Architecture, but also the history of Mexico, and the city which was host to Trostsky, Frida Khalo, and many other of the avant garde artists of Latin America.
The Docomomo Conference, my main reason for making the journey, was a great success. It lasted for three days from, Tuesday evening on the 26th to Friday evening on the 27th August and was held at the National University of Mexico, UNAM. I presented two papers, one as part of roudtable on Architectural research in Africa where my presentation gave both my personal views and as importantly the example of researchwork done by ArchiAfrika at the 2005 Tanzania Workshop. The second paper presented an historical overview of the design and planning of the Universities of Nigeria, Ibadan, and the Science and Technology in Kumasi. The Docomomo conference proved historic for Africa, as the South African chapter was the first to be registered into full Docomomo membership, [photo uploaded] and in their presentation they have mentioned their links with Archiafrika, and their intention to work on projects that we have a mutual interest in promoting.
The full conference was followed by a number of tour options. I went on the Barragan tour, [photos uploaded] which proved to be pretty impressive from an architectural perspective. His use of colour and the setting of his buildings within Mexico City really gave a true appreciation of his design genius. I also had been unaware of his interest in Africa, both African art, music and religious culture. His library had an extensive collection of books on African art and culture. I decided he may have been a santeria priest in an earlier incarnation!
After the tour I was able to visit the house of Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Riviera which has the famous bridge between the two sides, [insert photo of me between bridges] legend has it that Freda used to send Diego Riviera’s dinner over the bridge but they stayed in the separate houses, a good working relationship.
On my last day in Mexico I managed to visit Freda Kahlo’s birthplace, in another suburb of Mexico, which was also close to Trotsky’s house. Trotsky had first arrived as a refugee from Stalin’s USSR and stayed as a guest of Freda Kahlo and Riviera in their house. He then moved to a house literally around the corner, where he lived for the last two years of his life, until he was tragically murdered, having survived an earlier assassination attempt. I also went to the historic city centre or Zocalo and viewed the ruins of Place Mayore, the Aztec temple close to the the site of Mexico’s Catholic Cathedral and the seat of colonial Spanish government until the revolution.
Mexico city was a revelation, the media in the UK would have had us believe there was little but murder and mayhem to be expected. What we found was a well managed city, with an admirable road network, and cars adhering to high anti pollution standards. The air pollution was minimal, and Mexicans amongst the most friendly and helpful people I have ever met.