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date: 27 February 2020

Segura (Gutiérrez), Juánfree

(b Mexico City, Jun 23, 1898; d Mexico City, Nov 5, 1989).
  • Kathryn O’Rourke

Mexican architect. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes and received a degree in architecture in 1923. As a member of the generation of Mexican architects that reoriented architectural training and practice away from the imitation of classical and Renaissance models in the 1920s, Segura developed a distinctive idiom characterized by restrained interpretations of Spanish colonial decorative elements that he incorporated in otherwise rather austere facade compositions for a wide variety of building types in Mexico City. His works were notable for their decorative details, which, whether they were made of painted tile, plaster, or cast stone, were typically rendered at small scales, and often arranged in jazzy patterns with quick rhythms. They typified the experimentation with facade composition and explorations of historical and modern idioms that characterized many Mexican architects’ work in that decade. As his colleagues did, historians have struggled to assign to Segura’s oeuvre a single stylistic label. On balance, Segura’s works may be understood as significant, if somewhat muted, contributions to Mexico City’s substantial collection of Art Deco buildings and emblematic of the dramatic transformations in Mexican architecture in the 1920s.

In 1920 he worked with French architect Paul Dubois on schemes for the Palacio de Hierro department store and the Edificio Cidosa office building, both in downtown Mexico City. In the process he cultivated a feel for the handling of decoration at a small scale as well as an understanding of rationalist planning and construction. In 1926–1932 he collaborated with Manuel Cortina García to design the Orfanatorio San Antonio y Santa Isabel (later called the Orfanatorio Mier y Pesado), an orphanage for girls on the Calzada de Guadalupe in Mexico City. The enormous building was composed of a series of pavilions organized as spokes radiating from an oval-shaped central courtyard. Segura’s work in the 1920s included apartment buildings in several central residential neighborhoods.

Like other architects of his era, Segura was highly trained in composition. In two of his major projects, the Centro Social y Deportivo Venustiano Carranza (1929) and the Edificio Ermita (1930–1931), he demonstrated his supreme command of planning and the lasting influences of the Beaux-Arts–inspired emphasis on axiality and programmatic clarity that undergirded his education. The former, an enormous park and recreation center for workers that included a swimming pool, playing fields, a gymnasium, cinema, and a large open-air theater, revealed Segura’s refined and highly pictorial approach to historical precedents. The Edificio Ermita, a major landmark on the triangular lot bounded by Avenida Revolución, Avendia Jalisco, and Avenida Progreso in southwest Mexico City, accommodated in seven stories an extraordinary variety of activities in a clever arrangement. Shops occupied part of the ground floor near the narrowest point of the triangle-shaped building. Above these were apartments. At the wide end of the plan was a bank and, rising three stories, a cinema. Above it were more apartments, placed around a three-story, triangular atrium covered by an enormous skylight. When it was built, the Edificio Ermita was one of the tallest buildings in the capital.

In 1944–1945 Segura worked in the state of Sinaloa overseeing the construction of rural schools as part of the Comité Administrador del Programa Federal para la Construcción de Escuelas (CAPFCE), a major project in which many of the country’s top architects participated. During his long career in private practice, he worked repeatedly for the Fundación Mier y Pesado, a charitable organization; as a consequence he designed relatively few high-profile public buildings, which have generally formed the core of the canon of 20th-century Mexican architectural history. His papers are held at the Archivo de Arquitectura Mexicana y Cultura Visual del Siglo XX at the Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Bibliography

  • Anda Alanís, E. X. de. La arquitectura de la revolución mexicana: corrientes y estilos de la década de los vientes. Mexico City, 1990.
  • Quintero, P., ed. Modernidad en la arquitectura mexicana. Mexico City, 1990, 589–621.
  • Toca Fernández, A. “Juan Segura: orígenes de la arquitectura moderna en México.” El Museo Nacional de Arquitectura. Mexico City, 1990.
  • González Gortázar, F., ed. La arquitectura mexicana del siglo XX. Mexico City, 1994.
  • O’Rourke, K. E. Modern Architecture in Mexico City: History, Representation, and the Shaping of a Capital. Pittsburgh, 2016.