Diego Rivera and Juan O’Gorman: post-revolutionary architectural anatomies

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Frida Kahlo once wrote that her husband, the great muralist Diego Rivera, was ‘fundamentally a constructor, an investigator and above all, an architect’. Delving into this unexplored aspect of his artistic production, this article reassesses Rivera’s muralism in light of his contribution to post-revolutionary architectural discourses and his relationship with the architect Juan O’Gorman to demonstrate how concepts of building design influenced his approach to visual composition. In 1931, O’Gorman constructed a house-studio for Kahlo and Rivera which exemplified the functionalist style that rose to prominence in public architecture during that decade. Drawing attention to the anatomical analogies employed by O’Gorman to articulate his utilitarian architectural vision, the author examines how Rivera’s contemporary architecturally themed mural The Making of a Fresco (1931) integrates functionalist principles to establish a parallel between the discipline of built spaces and the bodies inhabiting them. Although both O’Gorman and Rivera later rejected functionalism in favour of an organic style, they continued to rely on physiological metaphors to conceptualise the relationship between architectural form and function. By following their shifting theorisations of the organic in modern architecture, the author traces the development of their shared thinking and an evolution in post-revolutionary building design from functionalism to a post-Taylorist organicism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-275
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Diego Rivera
  • Juan O’Gorman
  • functionalism
  • muralism
  • post-revolutionary Mexican architecture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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