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One of the great icons of Mexican architecture, Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, dies at the age of 94
Architect Pedro Ramírez Vazquez was present at the presentation of the first edition of ESPACIO (1983) magazine at the National Museum of Art (MUNAL) in Mexico City. This photo shows Pedro Ramírez Vazquez (right) greeting Ignacio Villarreal (left), the editor of the magazine.

MEXICO CITY.- Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez died Tuesday at the age of 94. Conaculta president Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, announced the death of the prominent architect.

"Mexico is suffering a great loss: Architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez died, one of the greats of our culture," he wrote in his Twitter account @ Tovar rtovarydeteresa.

Meanwhile, Conaculta twitted its condolences to the family and friends of Ramirez Vazquez, noting that his work marked the architecture of Mexico

Pedro Ramirez Vazquez was born in Mexico City on April 16, 1919.

Performs all his studies in public schools. His family upbringing was influenced by family memories and the ideology of José Vasconcelos. In an era without television and sporadic news on radio, the conversation within the family was focused on the national situation and his father´s activity: Book Merchant. Thus, his memories of childhood and adolescence were fed by Vasconcelists aspirations and the books he read.

Carlos Pellicer, his teacher of World History at the Secundaria 4, who like many young people, when Vasconcelos auto exiled himself, took refuge in his studies and in teaching, this led him to discover the Hellenistic life and there encountered a dazzling view: the Acropolis of Athens. It was then that he discovered architecture.

He understood that architecture went beyond styles and construction techniques, he saw this discipline as the opportunity to create spaces for coexistence. It was coexistence in that marvelous space, the Acropolis, where democracy was forged.

It was with this idea that he goes to the School of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. There, the teachings of his teachers, as he himself marks: "... go deeply into architecture as a discipline of service for the user. Understand architecture as the creation of space for: home life, education, health, recreation, trade. Life in all its aspects."

His interest for collective matters takes him, in 1939, to represent the students of Architecture as a member of the University Council. In 1943 he obtained his degree of Architect with the thesis: "Regulatory Plan for Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco”, the first thesis on urbanism in Mexico.

During 20 years he worked with Torres Bodet. His life as an architect evolves around the programs and activities of this great educator.

His professional practice is characterized by active realization, he sets out works. Focuses on realization, conceives works, promote, lead and perform them. He is marked by his ability to integrate interdisciplinary teams that bring together many of the most outstanding professionals, artists, academicians of their time.

The architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez work is worldwidely recognized and profiles him as an exceptional Mexican, for the higher quality of his work and his commitment to excellence, not only as an eminent architect and an innovative urban planner, but as a creator of spaces.

His social dimension, which is to build for the majority of people, such as the rural school and industrialization for the benefit of the poorest, that is the concept of ”homes that grow”.

In his more than 60 years of practice he built all kinds of buildings, especially those community oriented such as schools and cultural and sports facilities among which the Azteca Stadium is notorious and has often been mentioned in specialized publications both in Mexico and abroad.

His professional life was dedicated to attend social and cultural needs generated by 15 years as a teacher at the National School of Architecture of the UNAM of architectural composition and urban planning.

His interest on urban planning starts at the beginning of his professional training with his thesis that brings together planning and prevention of natural disasters. Among other activities he has performed in this field are:

• Participation at Planning Committee of Jerusalem and as an Urban Planning consultant for that City (1970).

• Technical Consultant for the Markets Municipal Plan, in the city of San Salvador, El Salvador, C. A (1971).

• General Coordinator of the State of Mexico Works, making the design for the Paseo Tollocan in Toluca and Lerma (1971).

• Architectural Director for the Government Area in Dodoma, Tanzania (1974).

As Secretary of Human Settlements and Public Works (1977) he led the design and establishment of the National System of Urban Development Planning. This meant the realization, in coordination with local authorities, of all the country urban plans, including 2377 municipal plans. Supported the national life decentralization programs as well as the territorial decentralization of the public federal administration, provided stimulus for the decentralization of industrial activities, the infrastructure to support industrial sea ports and the urban services regional integration.

In this position clearance of the 47 Material Improvement of Federal Boards, as well as of the 1514 Potable Water and Sewages Systems and industrial parks that were managed by the federation was achieved, and retransferring of resources to the states and municipalities. During this period conservation and restoration of historical centers, such as Mexico City´s, was achieved.

The incorporation of studies for urban dvelopment at the undergraduate and degree levels in all higher educational institutions was achieved.

From these experiences, Architect Ramírez Vázquez recalls, "... the projection of the government center of the new capital of Dodoma derives from the Tanzanian government assignment; also the invitation to be part of the Worldwide Interdisciplinary Planning Committee for the City of Jerusalem is accepted, and attends to its work meetings during 15 years. "

Creator of community spaces
The architectural design in areas where society lives, expresses and identifies itself, those spaces where men perform the activities that better represent them as a community, that are an expression of their civic, spiritual and ludic interests.

The architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez relevance in this aspects is evident if we take into consideration that he is the author of the most important arfchitectural works of the second half of the XX century in Mexico, such as: in the civic area, the Chamber of Deputies building; in the cultural area, the National Museum of Anthropology; in the educational area, the rural classroom; in the spiritual area, the new Basilica of Guadalupe; and in the sports area, the Aztec Stadium.

Creator of educational spaces
As Architect Ramírez Vázquez tells himself: "... had the good fortune to come to work as a draftsman in the Ministry of Education.." In 1944, he started his professional practice as Regional Head of the Federal Program Management Committee for School Construction, in the State of Tabasco. This experience led him later on to develop the project of pre fabricated classroom.

From 1947 to 1958 serves as Head of the Buildings Maintenance Department of the Ministry of Education. In 1951 he designed the building for the Elementary School "The Pipila" in Mexico City. and in 1952, designs the building for the National School of Medicine at the National University campus.

From 1958 to 1964 he is responsible to lead the Federal Program Management Committee of School Construction. There, under Pellicer social guidance and the programs Torres Bodet had undertaken, he had the opportunity to travel across the country. That is how he developed the concept of “prefabricated Classroom-Home." A solution that as architect Ramírez Vázquez recalls "... suits the country's diversity, its variety of climates, the availability of construction materials, but also the economic resources. Thus, 30 thousand rural classrooms were built in just 3 years, a classroom every 2 hours, as Mr. Jaime Torres Bodet and President Lopez Mateos reported at the time." This system that meets the needs of school construction was taken to 17 countries in Latin America as well as Philippines, India, Indonesia, Yugoslavia and Italy. With this same solution more than 150 thousand units were built by 1988 in the Mexican Republic.

His interest for eduactional spaces has been constant.

• Benito Juárez High School in Pilsen, Chicago, III (1976).

• Architectural design of the Irish School, México, D. F (1969).

• Project consultant of the Universidad Iberoamericana in Santa Fe, in Mexico City (1980).

• Design of the Infotheque of the Autonomous University of Coahuila, Saltillo and Monclova (1996) and Torreón (1999).

Creator of public spaces
Participates in the modernization process of whole sale marketing, designing 15 Markets in the Mexico City, including La LaguniIla, Tepito, Coyoacán, Azcapotzalco, San Pedro de los Pinos, Colonia Anahuac, Balbuena (1955 -1957). Day care centers for the proper care of children are installed in these facilities. Many of these markets are close to reach 50 years of public service.

Develops a system of industrial pre fabrication for social housing "The House that Grows" (1964).

In 1968 he was appointed Chairman of the XIX Olimpic Games Organizing Committee held in Mexico. This event was a challenge because it was the first time the Olympic Games were to take place in a Latin American country and it was after the Tokyo event.

Architect Ramirez Vazquez, remembers that his commitment to organize the XIX Olympics was a challenge: "... to demonstrate that even as a developing country Mexico could be as successfull as Japan was in 1964 with more resources.

The Olympics meant a great deal of organization and involved urban, sports and cultural issues. One of the objectives was not only to comply but to give the event a distinctive feature. Therefore Architect Ramírez Vázquez recalls that: ".. in these games we tried to return to the classical roots, to perform along with the Olympic competition, as it happened in ancient Greece, a parallel cultural activity. That was the origin of the Cultural Olympiad. An abandoned goal was recuperated "... allowed the young participants from developing countries to show their culture, take pride and satisfaction ... and not just to applaud the winners of the more developed countries.." In this manner “... in full cold-war era, the big countries that came to be protagonists of the Olympics became participants of the Cultural Olympiad."

On the other hand, the Olympics meant not only an enormous organizational challenge because of the limited resources, but also because there were domestic and international political issues that had to be faced.

In preparation for the Olympics in Mexico, Arch Ramírez Vázquez recalls that: "... had the support of 15 thousand students who were only provided of their expenses and uniforms. They began working in 1966, the purpose was to organize and motivate people in order to achieve the same level of other Olympics of the past. These youths fulfilled this purpose in 1968, without abandoning their social issues."

At the international level, Architect Ramírez Vázquez recalls “... had to deal with full conviction of Mexico's foreign policy values and principles difficult circumstances, such as the possible involvement of South Africa, finally South Africa was not allowed participate in the Olympics in Mexico, as a clear opposition to the apartheid policy. It also was achieved that the two German delegations paraded together, with one flag, -their patriotic colors and the Olympic rings- and the Bethoven Ode to Joy like an anthem. "... It was the first time that the two Germanies acted as one, many years before the fall of the Berlin Wall."

Also Architect Ramírez Vázquez remembers that "... a year after the Six-Day War the Arab and Israeli delegations were housed in neighboring buildings at the Olympic Village. A few weeks before the Soviet Union invaded Prague, two gymnasts, a Russian and a Czech, won two gold medals in gymnastics, a clear example of the ideals and the sense of the Greek Olympic Truce."

The Olympics in Mexico were not only a success but were innovative on many different aspects. Architect Ramírez Vázquez recalls: "... graphic design, and communication and publishing programs were developed, the most extensive and innovative to be remembered. It was a joint effort of young designers recently graduated and leading international designers that contributed with new techniques."

The Olympic facilities were as efficiently made by Mexican architects and engineers as those in Japan and Rome. The welcoming given to athletes and visitors, the atmosphere, the warmth and joy gave the Olimpics an image to be remember for many years. It is said that: "At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, professionals and technicians won international respect."

Promoter of Mexico
In his eagerness to display the culture of Mexico, to bring its presence to the world with great dignity, and a contemporary language, Architect Ramírez Vázquez was appointed by the Government of the Republic to create the flags of several expositions in which Mexico participated some of the ones he designed were at:

• The Mexican Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Brussels, Belgium (1958).

• The Mexican Pavilion at the World Expo in Seattle, Washington (1962).

• The Mexican Pavilion at the World Fair in New York (1969)

• The Mexican Pavilion at the Expo Sevilla '92 "

• "American Migration," Universal Forum of Cultures 2007 Monterrey, Mexico.

For several years he chaired the Soviet Union Professional Jews Defense Committee. Due to this the Israeli government decided to write his name in the "Golden Book of Israel" and to receive the "Jerusalem Prize" of the Jewish community of Mexico.

Creator of Museums
One of the most important initiatives, during the sixties was the Museums National Plan, presented by the Architect Ramírez Vázquez strongly supported by Mr. Jaime Torres Bodet and President Lopez Mateos. Therefore it was his duty to build the most important museums, as he says: "From the one at the northern border in Ciudad Juárez to the National Museum of Anthropology, the Viceroyalty, the Modern Art Museum and the Caracol Museum in Chapultepec, where children were introduced in an attractive manner to the Mexican Struggle for freedom."

The project of the National Museum of Anthropology, recalls Arch Ramírez Vázquez was "... made in close contact with archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, and the most prominent Mexican artists, which allowed him to fulfill the aspirations of López Mateos and Torres Bodet. . The museum, more than forty years after the opening is widely recognized in the cultural international arena and receives thousands of visitors daily.

With this work, Ramirez Vazquez is recognized as an innovativor of the concept of what a museum should be and a creator of unique museographic spaces, because the National Museum of Anthropology has an innovative impact in the cultural international arena, as he says: "... the opportunities were opened to design and construct, or to provide advice on museum issues in Switzerland, Egypt, Peru, Honduras, Senegal and Iran .... " It is important to mention his consultant work for museums such as the Louvre in France."

Teacher of generations of architects. From 1945 to 1958, teaches composition and urban planning at the National School of Architecture, UNAM.

Creator of institutions
• In 1953, founded and was Artistic Director of the Cultural Artistic Unit of the Bosque.

• Founder and First Technical Director of the Regional Center for Schools Construction for Latin America, under the UNESCO (1964).

• Founder and first General Rector of the Metropolitan Autonomous University. This institution is an innovative initiative in higher education, it has three decentralized campuses: Azcapotzalco, Ixtapalapa and Xochimilco, it follows a modular and interdisciplinary program, applies a new quarter system that shortens the study time and allows young people to act professionally in less time. UAM has created new professions that respond to reality with a positive social interest (1974-1975).

• Design of the Universidad Iberoamericana building in Mexico City.

• Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen, Chicago, at the Chicano comunity request (1978).

Cultural promoter
Creator of editorial projects, including works such as: The Time Codex, The Human Settlements Codex, The Space of Man and Urban Development in Mexico (1978-1982), Memory and Presence of Mexico in Seville Trust and Olympic Pavilion, Mexico - Seville Trust Expo '92.

Social Responsibility
His life has been of social responsibility and civil participation, due to this he gets the "Citizen Emeritus" recognition given by the City of Mexico Advisory Council. In 1966 created the "Society of Friends of the Museum of Anthropology”, which is a pioneering association that leads the way to create many other "friends of museums" in Mexico. In the Merced Foundation has participated with the design of the institutional award, "Reason to be Award" granted yearly. Founding counselor of the Mexican Foundation for Health FUNSALUD and created the logo. President of the Board of Sponsors of the Motolinia University Foundation. Counselor of the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Foundation, and many others. Has been granted the "Mexico United to the Excellence Foundation Award” by the Mexico United by our values Foundation in 2004.

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April 17, 2013

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