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Gentleman Racer

Goodwood House might have remained just another of England’s lesser-known stately homes were it not for the fact that its present incumbent, the entrepreneurial Earl of March and Kinrara, has put it well and truly on the map as the site of the Festival of Speed and Revival events which attract car enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. But while visitors to the interior of the rambling 17th-century property get an impressive display of Sèvres porcelain, furniture by William Kent and paintings by Canaletto and Stubbs, they are seldom privy to the contents of Lord March’s office, which is crammed to the ceiling with an eclectic mix of the sort of car and motorcycle-related trinkets that are commonly known
as “automobilia”.

 

Lord March began the collection in the 1970s. “My grandfather, the aristocrat-turned-racing driver Freddie March, used to send copies of Veteran and Vintage magazines to me at school, and one of the things I’m most attached to comes from that time of my life,” he says. “It’s a copy of The Treasury of the Automobile by the American cartoonist Ralph Stein, which was one of the first of the big, full-color car books to be published during the 1960s. I used to love the pictures of great cars such as Type 35 Bugattis, and I’d spend hours doing drawings of them. “My grandfather was a very good model-maker. He made lots of models of cars and aircraft, some of which I still have. I’m also trying to collect all of the original Goodwood motor-racing-event posters produced when he originally operated the circuit between 1948 and 1966.”

 

One of the pieces Lord March most cherishes is also one of the smallest: a trophy in the form of a cigarette lighter engraved with the image of a horse. “My grandfather won it when the Lancia Car Club staged the first hill climb event at Goodwood in 1936. It represents the start of motorsport at Goodwood, which makes it very special. I also have his tattered silk scarf and armband from his racing days, and a lovely Roy Nockolds pencil drawing showing him winning the Brooklands Double Twelve in 1934.”

 

But it is since the first Festival of Speed 21 years ago that his collection has really taken off. “People just give me things,” he says. “I have hundreds of model cars, dozens of crash helmets. One of my favorites is the helmet worn by the great American driver Dan Gurney when he was racing Ford GT40s. It is incredibly flimsy. “I also have a couple of Stetsons which were gifts from famous drivers. One came from Jim Hall, co-founder of the 1960s racing firm Chaparral, who presented it to me after I became one of relatively few people to drive one of the cars. The other belonged to the legendary NASCAR racer Richard Petty – it’s massive and decorated with strange animal bones and bits of fur. It’s possibly the maddest thing in the whole house.”

 

The 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place June 25 to 28 2015, and the Revival, September 11 to 13 2015, in Sussex, England. goodwood.com

Mexican Waves

Mexican Waves

For decades in the second half of the 20th century, Mexico City was dismissed as one of the most dysfunctional cities in the Americas, struggling to cope with a population edging past 20 million and an unfortunate geological site. Founded by the Aztecs in 1325 on an island on Lake Texcoco, the city had been built on soft soil which, as well as subsiding on a regular basis, was vulnerable to flooding and earthquakes. As other cities such as Buenos Aires and Rio flourished, constructing ever-higher skyscrapers, Mexico City had to be content with sprawling outwards, creating a conurbation that, futurists warned, was spiraling out of control.

 

Fast-forward to 2015, and how things have changed. The city is now a beacon of urban-design brilliance and all the world’s architects want a slice of the action. As architect Zaha Hadid observes, “Mexico City has the most amazing buildings – from Luis Barragán’s masterpieces to Félix Candela’s ‘shell’ building to really strong Brutalist and Mid-Century Modern structures.” In the past few decades, too, the city has undergone a renaissance, with a new generation of buildings by high-tech architects and designers. As well as a center of finance, Mexico City has become a hub for art, design and creativity, with an economy the size of Peru’s.

 

“Construction started to boom here even when other parts of the world were in recession,” says architect Ezequiel Farca, who works both in Mexico City and Los Angeles. “Architecture and design are going through a great phase now and are poetic and free enough to create something bold and full of imagination. Young architects are inspired by the Mexican masters, which you can see through their use of color, proportion and building techniques. At the same time there is a revival of furniture design and a greater appreciation for design icons such as Clara Porset and William Spratling.”

 

In the past ten years, not only have charming old buildings been given new life, but a mass of hotels, restaurants and stores have sprung up alongside the city’s 150 museums. New landmarks include the Soumaya Museum, designed by Fernando Romero, with its sinuous, futuristic form made of metallic, hexagonal reflective plates to house an art collection amassed by telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim Helú. Next door sits the Museo Jumex, designed by British architect David Chipperfield for fruit-juice giant Grupo Jumex’s contemporary art collection. Also winning admirers is the Chopo Museum, whose glorious extension by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos is an addition to an original 1902 building by Bruno Möhring.

 

Working alongside local architects are a slew of big international names. British starchitect Norman Foster is coming to town to build, with local hero Fernando Romero, a much-needed new international airport. Argentinian architect César Pelli, who designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, came to Mexico City to build The St. Regis Hotel Tower in 2008, and Richard Meier is busy designing the Reforma Towers, a mixed-use project on main thoroughfare Paseo de la Reforma.

 

“Thanks to the constant relationship between Europe, North America and Mexico, architects and designers have found Mexico the most beautiful place to express their individuality and have constantly added to the city,” says Emmanuel Picault, a Frenchman who settled in the city when he was 18. “There is still a feeling of liberty and joy that brings people here.”

 

All of these projects highlight the vibrancy of Mexico City today. But they also add a new layer to a metropolis that has one of the most multifaceted histories of any city in the Americas. This is a city that has reinvented itself many times since the days of Montezuma, when its population was already a great deal larger than that of London.

 

When Hernán Cortés and his successors began work on a new colonial capital, it was the ruins of Aztec temples and palaces that they used as foundations for their own buildings. Cortés himself ordered the construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral – the oldest in Latin America – alongside the ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor. Centuries later, the architects of “New Spain” continually sought to layer their own designs over those of previous civilizations. Although the later modernizers of the 19th century adopted Spanish and European architectural styles – with influences from Gothic architecture, Spanish neoclassicism and Hispano-Moorish motifs – they were equally inspired by the local mestizo population, creating a style of architecture that was uniquely Mexican.

 

Walk around Mexico City today and one can observe the process of cultural fusion that has helped to shape the capital. In some parts, such as Colonia Roma, Condesa and Juárez, it is possible to see the French influence of the 19th century and again when Art Nouveau emerged, French-trained architects ruled, and villas sprang up all over the more desirable suburbs.

 

In other parts, exciting 20th-century architecture dominates: buildings that were created after the end of the revolution in 1920, when a process of re-evaluation began. While some architects, such as the country’s greatest Modernist Luis Barragán, found inspiration in the simple purity of Mexican adobe houses, others looked to Europeans such as Le Corbusier. By combining both – the pure geometry of Modernism and the organic warmth and character of traditional Mexican architecture – local architects created a regional fusion with a rich personality all of its own.

 

If there is one architect whose legacy looms the largest in the city, it is Barragán, who died in 1988. His warm, sensitive but contemporary buildings – among the few Modernist examples loved by traditionalists, too – are full of vivid color, rich textures and integrated gardens and fountains. The ranch house that he designed for Folke Egerström in San Cristóbal is considered one of the greatest delights of 20th-century architecture and a celebration of both the architect’s and client’s love of horses. Barragán’s Chapel and Convent in Tlálpan are a hymn to light and serenity, while his Satellite City Towers on the Querétaro Highway are a much-loved public landmark. The architect’s own house in Tacubaya is open to the public and an essential stop on any architectural tour of the city.

 

As well as creating a distinctive architectural lexicon with his own buildings, Barragán also inspired a generation of local architects. They included the great Ricardo Legorreta, who shared his passion for color and texture expressed in vivid, modern forms, and designers such as Félix Candela and Teodoro González de León, who injected Mexican architecture and design with an energy, dynamism and ambition not seen before.

 

There are plenty of other individualists, too, who have imparted their own specific style on the landscape. Agustin Hernández, for example, takes inspiration from the pyramids, patios and ziggurats of Mayan cities, inventing houses that look like concrete spaceships on slender supporting pillars, hovering over the hills around Mexico City. Adamo Boari and Federico Mariscal created the Palacio de Bellas Artes in the 1930s, inspired by a mixture of neoclassical, Art Deco and Art Nouveau design and graced with murals by Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros. And Juan O’Gorman built a home-cum-studio for Rivera and Frida Kahlo, designed in an early Modernist style but full of color, light and drama. The list goes on.

 

“We love mystery and surprises,” Ricardo Legorreta once said. “Even in our way of being we are quite mysterious. We say we are a simple people but we are extremely complicated. The depth of the architecture we create is the depth of Mexico and its people.” 

 

Dominic Bradbury writes on design and architecture. His latest book,
Mid-Century Modern Complete, is published by Thames & Hudson/Abrams

 

Your address: The St. Regis Mexico City

 

Images: René Burri/Magnum Photos, Adam Wiseman, Inigo Bujedo Aguirre/Viewpictures.co.uk

 

 

Fernando Romero's Soumaya Museum

 

 

Enrique Norten's Chopo Museum extension

 

 

Luis Barragán's Satellite City Towers

 

 

Inside Romero's Soumaya Museum

 

 

MEXICAN DESIGN STARS PICK THEIR FAVORITE BUILDINGS 

Ezequiel Farca, Architect

 

National Autonomous University of Mexico. “Located in Pedregal in the south of the city, an example of great urban planning, where you can spend the whole day looking at the wonderful modernist buildings, gardens and museums.” unam.mx

 Vasconcelos Public Library. “By Alberto Kalach, this is one of the most impressive contemp­orary buildings in Mexico City.” bibliotecavasconcelos.gob.mx

 

Casa Barragán by Luis Barragán. “Always inspiring because of the use of light, space, mat­erials and color.” casaluisbarragan.org

Emmanuel Picault, Designer and Gallerist 

 

National Anthropology Museum. “Unforgettable.” mna.inah.gob.mx

Anahuacalli Museum. “Diego Rivera’s last atelier.” museoanahuacalli.org.mx

Teotihuacan. “The most powerful archaeo­logical site close to Mexico City.”