Before reviewing and evaluating each one of the potential authors’ possibilities of having carried out the project for the Workshop-Dormitory, it is convenient to clarify the dates, both of the elaboration of the project as well as the time taken for its construction. This information of doubtless relevance for the property’s history. Observing the sequence in which the events preceding the project and construction of the Workshop-Dormitory at López Cotilla St took place offers the opportunity of finding an order in them, as well as to interpret different clues on the central topic of this research: the authorship of the Home-and-Studio.
A brief analysis of the facts and precedents that lead to the building of this Workshop-Dormitory, and of the way these affect the possibilities of each one of the involved characters of being involved in its realization, in addition to certain inconsistencies between various sources and the conclusions reached through the available information, are listed below.
– Since early 20s of last century, and practically until the end of his life, Orozco carried out numerous exercises in which he evidenced a fixation for including in his paintings his particular and very advanced vision on abstraction of Mexican popular architecture. Two of these exercises stand out: the oil painting La casa blanca (The White House, 1922) and the print Mexican Pueblo (1930). The Workshop-Dormitory at López Cotilla St reproduces many of the shapes and ideas of these two exercises, making them a clear reference and influence.
– In 1931, Barragán leaves for New York City, where he remains for a few months, before taking on his second voyage to Europe. In this city, he reencounters José Clemente Orozco, and, through him, meets architect Frederick Kiesler. His stay in New York is essential to understand the relationship between both characters, as well as Barragán’s transit to modernism, since he participated in the numerous talks about architecture that Orozco and Kiesler used to hold. These talks doubtlessly contributed a strong influence to his ideas and later oeuvre. The close and long-lived friendship between the Tapatío architect and the painter also emerged from them.
– During his second travel to Europe, in 1931, Barragán meets Le Corbusier, and visits some of his works. Amongst them, the Beistegui Attic, a space built for the wealthy Charles de Beistegui, stands out. Designed to entertain and surprise the millionaire’s guests, the Attic integrates an “open air chamber”, games of lights and shadows, and surrealist elements to bring together a ludic and dynamic space, which doubtlessly became an important influence for Barragán. The high rooftop of the Workshop-Dormitory at López Cotilla St shows a clear inspiration in the Attic’s open air chamber.
– In 1932, from June to October, Orozco travels to Europe with the purpose of physically getting to know the work of the great masters of painting. He visited numerous museums and temples in several countries2. His stay in Paris was very brief, which kept him, despite his intentions, from becoming acquainted with Le Corbusier and his work.
– Orozco returned to Mexico City during the month of June 1934, after a prolonged stay of seven years in New York City (1927-1934). He remained in the country’s capital until September 1935.
– Barragán permanently moves to Mexico City in 1935, probably around March. In other words, Barragán arrived to Mexico City before Orozco left to Guadalajara, making it impossible for them to have collaborated in this city. While the possibility of the project having begun during the approximately seven months that they both resided in Mexico City cannot be discarded, this is highly unlikely, since they hardly would have known the characteristics of the plot of land where the building would stand, which turned out to be decisive for the design.
– The start of the construction is estimated between the end of 1936 and the beginning of 1937, contrary to the estimate given by most of the reviewed literature of 1934 and 1935. Orozco lived the first half of 1934 in New York City, and the rest of said year in Mexico City. He did not close the deal to paint in Guadalajara until 1935. In addition, both the acquisition of the plot of land and the first mention of the construction in Orozco’s letters to his wife happen until autumn 1937. It is difficult to imagine that the house was designed with two years anticipation to the plot’s acquisition, being that its layout is completely bound to the plot’s physical traits. From this, it is possible to discard that the project could have been carried out before 1936.
The proposed dating is based on the mentions made regarding the advances of the building in letters, the date of acquisition of the plot, and the located documents, in addition to the fact that the construction permit was not located, and the registry begins in January 1937 (see Documentary Research and Interviews). However, several permits of buildings on the same block as the Workshop-Dormitory were located, which leads to think that it was a widespread practice to request due permission to the corresponding authority before starting the construction works. Said estimation assumes that Orozco could have disposed of the plot before its formal sale.
A letter sent by Orozco to his wife Margarita in November 1937 is of significance to establish the possible dates of elaboration of the project and the start of the works of construction. The letter mentions that, to that date, the house is progressing, but I do not think it will by inhabitable before January 1° 3, leading to the following conclusions.
– Orozco could physically dispose of the plot before signing the property deed, taking into account that there could have hardly been enough progress for such conclusion (I do not think it will by inhabitable before January 1°) barely twenty days after the property deed´s signature to the date of said letter.
– If by November 1937 there were expectations of the house being ready after January 1 1938, it is likely that the construction began since the last months of 1936, or the beginning of 1937.
– Because of this, surely the design must have been made during 1936, perhaps during the second semester.
The documents and written mentions of the Workshop-Dormitory, as well as some significant dates of Orozco’s stay in Guadalajara, are the base of the conclusions listed above. A review of these registers was made, and these are enlisted below for the reader’s scrutiny.
– December 1, 1935, letter from Orozco to his wife: As soon as you arrive, we will look for an empty house […] I think that would be the best to be comfortable and with a place to work […]4
– October 22, 1937, public deed formalizing the acquisition of the plot of land.5
– November 11, 1937, letter from Orozco to his wife:
The house is progressing, but I do not think it will be inhabitable before January 1°. I have thought that the best is to make a home for the family in the plot [Ignacio Mariscal], instead of just a studio. That can be con the 2° floor, with a completely independent entrance. Once I get through this, we can take on the construction there […].6
– November 21, 1937, letter from Orozco to his wife: […] first we must finish the dome, which will be in around three weeks, and see to the studio’s construction […] perhaps I can use it by the end of December. 7
– December 5, 1937, letter form Orozco to his wife:
I am behind on the construction expenses, and the 2° payment for the plot is coming up. […]I probably will not be able to occupy the new house until January, since around 800.00 are needed for doors, floors, and bathroom, the very essential.8
– December 13, 1937, letter from Orozco to his wife: If [Alberto Misrachi] refuses [to purchase drawings], we must suspend the construction of the studio until January […]. I need a house already, even though I am alone. 9
– January 8, 1938, letter from Orozco to his wife:
I didn’t have enough, even for the builders’ wages. I hope the payments are normalized next week […]. Happily, the house is very advanced and I think I can occupy it in 10 days. The doors and windows are being set, all of them iron, a true luxury. I hope I can […] face […] the payments of both plots, the one here and the one at Mariscal.10
– January 20, 1938, letter from Orozco to Inés Amor:
Until now, I have only been working on the walls, since I did not count with a studio appropriate to make small painting, because of this I had the idea of taking up the construction of said studio, which is practically finished. Next week I will occupy it and be able to use it.1111
– January 28, 1938, letter from Orozco to Luis Cardoza y Aragón: The home-and-studio is in “we’ll see”. The works are suspended for lack of funds.12
– From the mentioned sources, it is estimated that Orozco occupies his Workshop-Dormitory at López Cotilla at the beginning of 1938, probably between the months of January and March. He inhabits it for less than two years, since he concludes his work in Guadalajara in March, 193913, and, from this date on, he splits his time between this city and the town of Jiquilpan. He returns to Mexico City at the beginning of the following decade.
– November 2, 1939, public deed formalizing the sale of the Workshop-Dormitory.14