Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-31-1995

Degree Name

Master of Architecture - (M.Arch.)


School of Architecture

First Advisor

Donald Wall

Second Advisor

Peter C. Papademetriou

Third Advisor

Mark A. Hewitt


Aside from the two Schools of the Arts built In Cuba during the early sixties, the work of Ricardo Porro is unknown to most American architects. This essay is intended to make available to an American audience a critical examination of Mr. Porro's work. His work consists not only of buildings which have been erected in Cuba, France and Liechtenstein, but also of numerous unbuilt projects. Ricardo Porro is not only an architect but also a painter, sculptor and cabinetmaker. He has also written various articles on architecture which have been published in European journals and, most importantly, he has published two books: Oeuvres/Obras 1950-1993 (Works 1950-1993), which is a portfolio his architecture with descriptions and commentaries, and Les Cinq Aspects Du Contenu (The Five Aspects of Content) which is his theory of architecture. In addition Mr. Porro has implemented his didactic method in his role as professor at various schools of architecture in Cuba, Venezuela, France, and currently in Austria.

Hence, Ricardo Porro is active not only as a builder but also in other spheres of architecture. His opinions and beliefs on art and architecture have been made known through his books and in his articles, most of which have been written in French or in Spanish. This author has translated both of his books, Oeuvres/Obras: 1950-1993 and Les Cinq Aspects Du Contenu. These translations are contained in the appendices.

Since this is a critical essay of the work of Ricardo Porro--the first to extensively present a critical analysis of his work to date, and certainly the first comprehensive essay about his work to be made available to an English speaking readership--it is advised that the reader become familiar with his work via the drawings, photographs and translations provided for him in the appendix before reading the critical analysis. Recently the internationally circulated architectural journal, Architecture and Urbanism, published an article on the work of Mr. Porro which is valuable for the drawings and color photographs of his projects and for the article entitled, "An Architectural Autobiography of Ricardo Porro" in the March 1994 Issue. Naturally the best way to get to know his work is to visit his buildings and to hear Porro discuss his views about them. Yet, if one is unable to obtain this direct experience, one must fall back on other less vivid primary sources as a way of getting to know Porro's architecture, namely through drawings, photographs and the articles written by him and about him.

The author interviewed Ricardo Porro in his home in Paris, visited his office, and visited three of Mr. Porro's buildings in Paris accompanied by him. Some of the interviews and conversations with the architect were taped. These amount to approximately fifteen hours of conversation covering his views on art and architecture, a discussion of his works and also that of others. These first-hand experiences have been incorporated into the critical analysis.

Yet this raw data about Ricardo Porro's work acquired through an investigation of the primary sources cited above is insufficient to bring about a critical examination of his work. Therefore, the literature which has accumulated over the years about Mr. Porro's architecture has been examined. For the most part it seems that the critics's [sic] demonstrate no real understanding of his work on account of their focus on just one project and because of their emphasis on the formal characteristics of his projects without an examination of their content. Many of the articles are merely descriptive and expository. Various attempts have been made by many critics to force him into a category such as organic', 'expressionist', 'sculpture-architecture, 'socialist', etc. Porro's theory of architecture, Les Cinq Aspects Du Contenu, has not been critically commented by architectural historians. Undeniably, the points of view expressed by Ricardo Porro, in his text are crucial for an understanding of his work for it contains the theory upon which he claims his practice is based.

It is always the case that in a critical analysis of a work of architecture certain aspects or viewpoints are emphasized at the expense of others. Hence the method adopted to examine a work of architecture will have a preponderant effect on the interpretation of a work. The understanding and appreciation of an architect's work will be quite different if one applies to it a technical interpretation, a social-economic interpretation, philosophical-religious interpretation or any other interpretations which have been used and promulgated by architectural historians and art critics. From these numerous possibilities the author has selected the method and focus which he has found to be most fruitful in giving the reader an understanding of Mr. Porro's total production and to open the way for further inquiries about his work: an analysis of the form and content of the work of Ricardo Porro.

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