BEYOND ARCHITECTURE

The American Heritage Dictionary defines architecture as “the art and science of designing and constructing buildings”. I guess its fair to say the dictionary is correct, but only up to a point. Beyond that point however, buildings, memorials or monuments are merely cold structures designed to inspire or to serve some practical purpose like building a house. But as an old 60s song rightfully reminds us, “A house is not a home”. Inside that house we expect to find furniture, photos, families and memories. Its as if, time, the house and its contents have formed some weird symbionic relationship. It is the human factor that converts a house into a home. Likewise, many other architectural structures require that same human factor. The Riviera del Pacifico below is a colorful example of the marraige between architecture and those who give it life.

Construction of the building began in the 1920’s. The Playa Ensenada and casino, its former name, opened in 1930 as a glamorous casino, hotel, restaurant and bar. It was visited by several Hollywood stars, wealthy Americans and Mexicans alike during the Prohibition era. It was said Al Capone financed the construction of the casino and Jack Dempsey once managed it. Today the complex serves as Ensenada’s social, civic and cultural center.

There are times when architecture can inform, not necessarily with a building itself but with the anecdotes about it. For instance, almost everyone is familiar with San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid, but how many know why it got its shape? In 1968 businessman John Beckett noticed that the trees in a nearby city park – unlike the surrounding, box-like buildings – allowed natural light and fresh air to filter down to the streets below. Wishing to achieve the same effect with Transamerica’s new headquarters, an unconventional pyramid shape was chosen for the building. Indeed tidbits like this can engage us even to inanimate things.

When Mexico’s President Porfirio Diaz ordered the construction of this palace in the early 1900s his plan was to unveil it as part of the celebration of Mexico’s centennial independence from Spain. The Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910 however, interrupting the construction, and was not completed until 1934. The palace has a mixture of a number of architectural styles, principally Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Architecture can also inspire as seen in this beautiful circular monument-cemetery, the resting place for the military, politcal, and artistic elite born in the state of Jalsico, Mexico. This, the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres is a monument erected in order to honor the memory of various characters who stood out in the history of Jalisco. The stone markers stand in a double circle around an eternal flame. Among the famous buried here is the artist Diego Riviera.

I must acknowledge however, that unless you are an architect or in some way connected with architecture, you’re probabbly not going to care much about it. But on those occasions when you have nothing to do and your mind wanders on nothing in particular, it might be revealing to fixate on those masses of stone, concrete or wood which we call architecture in order to find the human element within. That is why I photographed these structures and why I wrote this blog.

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