Ricardo Porro

Architect (1925 - 2014)

Ricardo Porro was an architect, but also a sculptor and painter, a furniture designer, and a man of culture. He was the project manager of a vitalist architecture, plunging his roots into projects produced by Gaudí, Mendelsohn, Asplund, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Steiner, but also into the vernacular forms of architecture. Ricardo Porro grew up in Havana, in the heart of the Caribbean, where he did his studies. In 1960, Fidel Castro and the Cuban government offered him a chance to work on an initial major commission, through a schools programme, and more particularly the School of Visual Arts and the School of Modern Dance in Havana. In his early works we already find all the factors which would subsequently define Ricardo Porro’s architecture: a dazzling sense of spatial ellipses, and a sensual exuberance of form. Here, architecture is imagery: figurative imagery where anthropomorphism is invariably present, but also symbolic imagery stemming from the cosmic order of the universe. The syncretic quality of his architecture, linking man to the world, appears like an immense body in which the architectonic elements are equivalent to bits of human bodies. As explicit symbolic images, Ricardo Porro’s works are just as much an expression of actual programmes, attaching as much importance to form as to content, two inseparable notions for him.

Ricardo Porro went into exile in Caracas, Venezuela, during the revolution, and then returned to Cuba where he taught at the University. In 1966, he settled in France, where he taught history of art and architecture until 1992. His first work in Europe was an Art Centre in Lichtenstein, built in 1969. In 1972, he then designed a project for the Maison des jeunes à Vaduz, in Lichtenstein, as well as a Holiday Village at Vela Luka, in Yugoslavia. Many projects then ensued: the Ecole Gonzalo at Marne-la-Vallée, 1976; La Forêt, Maisons de ville à Cergy-Pontoise, 1978; the Villeneuve-d’Ascq Library, 1980; the Ecole de danse at the Opéra de Paris, 1983; and the extension to the Saint-Denis Hôtel de Ville, 1985. When he became associated with Renaud de la Noue in 1986, Porro would increase the number of his works in the Paris region and particularly in Seine-Saint-Denis. Their buildings (housing, school constructions…) in most cases proposed natural evocations, and vegetable and animal metaphors.

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