Norten’s Taste

Museo Amparo, Puebla

Museo Amparo, Puebla

I attended a public lecture by my friend Enrique Norten last night. He described recent work: a museum in Puebla, a business school for Rutgers, and a city hall in Acapulco—all three competition winners, and all three under construction. All are impressive buildings in different ways. The museum is an addition shoe-horned into a historic complex of buildings, the university building is a self-conscious icon for a re-planned campus, and the capitol is an imaginative exercise in energy conservation. But what struck me is what he did not talk about, but which seemed to me an important aspect of his work: his Taste. Norten’s architecture falls into the category of lightweight construction, and brings to mind Renzo Piano, although it appears less studied and less obsessively detailed. And Piano’s friendly designs can be so unthreatening as to be almost ingratiating, while Norten is never cuddly, and can be downright standoffish in a stylish contemporary way. The architectural equivalent of his five o’clock shadow. His approach to design is to solve problems, a quality he shares with Norman Foster. But while the latter’s work has become increasingly polished, Norten’s taste remains that of an ascetic. A Mexican Zumthor, one might say, a diligent craftsman, though without the Swiss architect’s preciousness, and working on a larger canvas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *