Syd Brisker introduces Ricardo Legorreta to present a selection of his work and discuss his philosophy and the history of Mexican architecture. Becoming increasingly well known outside of Mexico, Legorreta worked with José Villagrán as a young man when he began to have doubts about the validity of the International School as it related to Mexico. He put his theories and ideas to practice when he started his own firm in 1965. Brisker argues that Legorreta is the most Mexican of all the Mexican architects because he takes pride in his culture which shows in his work.
Ricardo Legorreta recalls that when he asked Walter Gropius if he should leave the country to study, his advice was to stay in the place where he planned to live and work but to travel as much as possible. A strong influence on his work is Villagran, whom he studied with and who instilled in him a sense of ethics, responsibility, and a love for the profession. Other important influences include the Mexican middle- and lower-class way of life and the artist Chucho Reyes (aka Jesús Reyes Ferreira).
Legorreta talks about the lose of a sense of grandeur in architecture and that we do many big things, but seldom do great things. There is also a lacking in the refinement of details, simplicity, and ingenuity which each play an important role in good design. Intimacy is also important because humans need privacy which can be achieved through considerations such as the relationship to the street, the placement of windows, and careful handling of lighting. After showing examples of vernacular architecture in poor areas he admits that although poverty needs a solution, the ways in which we try to solve it often destroys some of the most important values in architecture.
Legorreta discusses a school project for a small town in which he tried to keep the scale if each component in the range of what was appropriate for a small city. He also discusses a project in Cabo San Lucas where he enjoyed the site so much that he decided to hide his work by partially burying it in the sand. An unintended result of this strategy was that the structures used far less energy, leading certain people to label him a pioneer in energy saving buildings.
Legorreta presents a distribution center he designed for IBM that gave him the opportunity to do a building with walls that have very few openings. Painting the exterior of the building grey, he wanted it to disappear in its dull site while he played with bold colors on the interior surfaces. He experimented with combinations of natural and artificial light in a way that makes them indistinguishable from each other.
Legorreta answers questions, beginning by identifying the practice of asking photographers to shot spaces to make them appear to be something they are not as a major vice for many architects.