The O'Gormans play chess in their lava cave home Casa O'Gorman in Pedregal, Mexico City

In Praise of Caves:
Organic Architecture Projects from Mexico by Carlos Lazo, Mathias Goeritz, Juan O’Gorman, and Javier Senosiain

October 19, 2022 – February 26, 2023

In Praise of Caves: Organic Architecture Projects from Mexico by Carlos Lazo, Mathias Goeritz, Juan O’Gorman, and Javier Senosiain is an exhibition spanning multiple galleries on the Museum’s first floor. It combines a selection of projects by these four artist–architects that explore the adaptation of natural structures to modern living, the practical and environmental benefits of moving underground, and how humanity might reconnect with the essential happiness of living in concert with nature. Under the broad rubric of organic architecture, these projects and site-specific installations reflect an alternative paradigm for approaching the relationship between human-built and natural environments that emerged in Mexico in the middle of the twentieth century. As the climate crisis accelerates, along with other signs that we have broken our relationship with nature, alternative visions have never seemed more needed.

Together with the ongoing exhibition Noguchi Subscapes, these projects will temporarily turn The Noguchi Museum into a subterranean environment as a metaphor for contemplating and perhaps reassessing our place in the world. 

 

Exhibition Guide


About the Artist-Architects

  • Mathias Goeritz, La Serpiente de El Eco (El Eco Serpent), 1953, exhibition copy fabricated 2022. Painted steel (copy in wood). 168 1/2 x 344 x 160 1/4 in. (428 × 874 × 407 cm). Original in the Colección Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; reconstruction authorized by Daniel Goeritz Rodríguez, © Mathias Goeritz. Installation view, In Praise of Caves, The Noguchi Museum, October 19, 2022 – February 26, 2023. Photo: Nicholas Knight. © INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, maquettes for the El Eco Serpent. Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Untitled works from the series Open Mind and Empty Head, 1950. Gourd, bronze. Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • A ‘cave mouth’ with celestially-oriented works by Mathias Goeritz. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Visionario [Cabeza de Orozco] (Visionary [Orozco Head]), 1951. Stone. 13 9/16 x 9 7/16 x 11 7/16 in. (34.5 x 24 x 29 cm). Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Estrella (Star), 1973. Bronze. Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Hombre asustado (Startled Man), c. 1955. Stone. 18 1/8 x 9 1/16 x 8 1/4 in. (46 x 23 x 21 cm). Collection of Gina and Salomon Grabinski Zabludovsky. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Estrella (Star), n.d. Wood. 23 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. (60 x 48 cm). Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Hombre asustado (Startled Man), 1955. Wood. 16 5/16 x 12 3/8 x 5 7/8 in. (41.5 x 31.5 x 15 cm). Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Estrella, maqueta para un proyecto monumental (Star, maquette for a monumental project), 1973. Bronze. 16 9/16 x 11 13/16 x 5 1/8 in. (42 x 30 x 13 cm). Private collection. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Mathias Goeritz, Torres, variantes de la Osa Mayor (Towers, Variants of the Big Dipper), 1968. Painted steel. ESPAC Collection, Mexico City. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS

Mathias Goeritz

Mathias Goeritz (b. 1915, Danzig, Germany; d. 1990, Mexico City, Mexico) was a German-born painter, sculptor, architect, teacher, and theorist. After emigrating to Mexico in 1949, Goertiz became a naturalized citizen of the country and an important figure in the postwar modern art scene there. Goeritz developed a principle of “emotional architecture,” advocating for the construction of expressive spaces designed to encourage collaboration, freedom, creativity, and empathy. Goeritz is most well known for his short-lived experimental museum, Museo Experimental El Eco (1953), his large-scale collaboration with architect Luis Barragan Five Towers (1957–58), and other monumental sculptures, which are considered precursors of minimalist primary structures.


  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fondo Aerofotográfico Acervo Histórico Fundación ICA, A.C.
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, México City, c. 1953
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Augusto Pérez Palacios, and Jorge Bravo, Programa Cuevas Civilizadas, Sur de av. Constituyentes en de La Torres, Belén de las Flores, Alvaro Obregón, Mexico City, c. 1953. Fotografía del Archivo de Arquitectos Mexicanos, Fondo Augusto Pérez Palacios, Facultad de Arquitectura, UNAM
  • Carlos Lazo, Drawing of the interior for La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (Sierra Leona No. 374, Mexico City), c. 1945
  • Carlos Lazo, Plan drawing for La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (Sierra Leona No. 374, Mexico City), c. 1945
  • Carlos Lazo, Elevation drawing for La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (Sierra Leona No. 374, Mexico City), c. 1945
  • Carlos Lazo, La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (Sierra Leona No. 374, Mexico City), c. 1948
  • Carlos Lazo, La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (Sierra Leona No. 374, Mexico City), exterior, c. 1948
  • Carlos Lazo, La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (Sierra Leona No. 374, Mexico City), courtyard, c. 1948

Carlos Lazo

Carlos Lazo (b. 1914, Distrito Federal, Mexico; d. 1955, Distrito Federal, Mexico) was an architect and public official who, from 1952–55, served as the head of the Secretariat of Communications and Public Work (SCOP), overseeing state infrastructure projects. He designed the Banco de México building in the Port of Veracruz, oversaw the construction of Ciudad Universitaria of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and created a series of habitable subterranean spaces, which he called “Civilized Caves,” including La Casa-Cueva de la Era Atómica (1948) in Lomas de Chapultepec, Mexico City. The program was to have included 110 homes dug into a canyon wall in the Belén de las Flores neighborhood of Mexico City, an ambitious public housing project which was to be never fully realized due in part to Lazo’s untimely death in an airplane accident.


  • Juan O’Gorman and his wife Helen O’Gorman (née Fowler), play chess c. 1959 in the lava cave home he designed and decorated in Mexico City. Photo: Eliot Elisofon / The LIFE Picture Collection / Shutterstock
  • Painter and architect Juan O’Gorman (1905–1982) and his wife, botanist Helen O’Gorman (née Fowler), at their lava cave home Casa O’Gorman in Pedregal, Mexico City, c. 1959. Photo: Eliot Elisofon / The LIFE Picture Collection / Shutterstock
  • Serpiente (snake), n.d. Stone. 9 7/16 x 17 11/16 x 16 1/8 in. (24 x 45 x 41 cm). Collection of Luis and Karen Stephens; formerly in the collection of Juan and Helen O’Gorman
  • Water basin, n.d. Stone. 7 1/2 x 13 3/8 x 13 3/8 in. (19 x 34 x 34 cm). Collection of Luis and Karen Stephens; formerly in the collection of Juan and Helen O’Gorman
  • Juan O'Gorman, El reino mineral (The Mineral Kingdom), 1971. Tempera on panel. 37 x 33 1/16 in. (94 x 84 cm). Collection Welbanks Family, Mexico City
  • Juan O’Gorman, Proyecto de monumento al nacimiento de Venus, 1976. Tempera on plywood. 60 5/16 x 44 15/16 x 3 3/4 in. (153.2 x 114.2 x 9.5 cm). Collection Pérez Simón, inventory: 10677
  • Juan O’Gorman, Paisaje de la muerte, n.d. Tempera on masonite. 16 1/8 x 18 7/8 in. (41 x 48 cm). Collection José Assa Masri

Juan O’Gorman

Juan O’Gorman (b. 1905, Coyoacán, Mexico; d. 1982, Mexico City, Mexico) was an architect and artist, known for his early functionalist and later organic architecture and often surrealist paintings, murals, and mosaics that had nationalistic and anti-fascist themes. O’Gorman was committed to the integration of art and architecture, and, along with his friend and collaborator Diego Rivera, to creating a vernacular Mexican architecture. His most celebrated works include the Library of the National University in Mexico City (1951–53), which is adorned with a mosaic facade representing the history of Mexican culture, and his now destroyed personal home Casa O’Gorman (1948–54, demolished 1969) outside Mexico City that integrated the surrounding lava-formed landscape.


  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar and Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros, La Coata, 2022. Concrete, mosaic. Courtesy Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Casa Orgánica, 1984–85 © Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Model for Casa Orgánica, Mexico City (1985), 1984. Fabricated by Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros. Mixed media. Courtesy Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, El Nido de Quetzalcóatl, 1998–2007 © Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Model for El Nido de Quetzalcóatl (1998–2007). Fabricated by Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros. Mixed media. © Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Model for El Nido de Quetzalcóatl (1998–2007). Fabricated by Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros. Mixed media. Courtesy Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Model for El Nido de Quetzalcóatl (1998–2007). Fabricated by Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros. Mixed media. © Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Model for Proyecto Refugio Iztaccíhuatl, 2003 (unrealized). Fabricated by Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros. Mixed media. Courtesy Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica. Photo: Nicholas Knight. ©INFGM / ARS
  • Javier Senosiain Aguilar, Model for Proyecto Viñedo Salamandra, 2007 (unrealized). Fabricated by Enrique Cabrera Espinosa de los Monteros. Mixed media. © Javier Senosiain / Arquitectura Orgánica

Javier Senosiain

Javier Senosiain (b. 1948, Mexico City, Mexico) is a renowned architect and historian. He is the founder and principal of Arquitectura Orgánica (Organic Architecture) in Mexico City, teaches an Architectural Design and Theory Workshop at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, and has authored numerous publications including Bioarquitectura (2002) and Arquitectura Orgánica (2008). A pioneer of organic architecture, he has devoted his research and practice to exploring the relationship between habitable space and nature. arquitecturaorganica.com

 


In Praise of Caves is organized by Dakin Hart, Senior Curator of The Noguchi Museum, with exhibition consultant Ricardo Suárez Haro, whose idea it was to make an exhibition about organic architecture with these artist-architects. Special thanks to Javier Senosiain and his firm Arquitectura Orgánica, who are principally responsible for making it possible to do so.


Exhibitions at The Noguchi Museum are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council and from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.