Chile and Mexico: Antipodal Historiographies – Antipodal Architectures?
Juan Manuel Heredia
Portland State University, Portland, OR, USA
The year 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the beginnings of independence in several Latin American countries. Heralding their entry into modernity the bicentennial coincided with the publication of books dedicated to the history of modern architecture in those countries. Chilean Modern Architecture since 1950 by Fernando Pérez Oyarzun, Rodrigo Pérez de Arce, and Horacio Torrent, and Architecture as Revolution: Episodes in the History of Modern Mexico by Luis Carranza were published in the U.S. by important university presses. Additionally, Ramón Vargas Salguero’s collaborative book Arquitectura de la Revolución y Revolución de la Arquitectura (the last volume of the monumental Historia de la Arquitectura y el Urbanismo Mexicanos) was published in Mexico the year before. Addressing similar or analogous topics the books differ in their time-periods and modes of authorship. More importantly they differ in their methodological premises and disciplinary locus of enunciation. Although all written by authors with an architectural background the ones dedicated to Mexico adopt a straightforward historical (Marxist) approach relying on ideological and iconographical analyses more than spatial or topographical ones. Although all written by native authors the ones published in the United States emphasize international issues in addition to only national ones. This paper analyzes, contrasts, and evaluates these books as exemplars of the wide range and current state of Latin American modern architectural historiography. Focusing on two geographically antipodal countries it speculates whether there are also antipodal approaches in these histories. At issue here is the persistent divide between art-historical and architectural forms of scholarship: what Jorge Otero-Pailos recently described as the clash between “traditional historiography” and “architectural phenomenology” (an opposition often rendered as critical vs. operative history). In acknowledging the inevitability of situated discourse this paper, however, seeks to overcome simplistic distinctions. More critically it speculates whether this divide reflects antipodal modern architectures.